TITLE: Juan Negro
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Hidalgo
ETHNICITY: Otomí
DESCRIPTION: Juan Negro (Cuanegro) Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Juan Negro Dance Drama
AGE: ca. 2000s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: oil-based paint

The Juan Negro (Black John) Dance Drama of the Hidalgo region tells a comic tale of a struggle between a Spanish colonist and his foreman over the love of a girl. It is sometimes spelled Juanegro or Cuanegro. The Spaniard, Juan Blanco (White John), wears a light-colored mask because of his life of shady ease, while the Juan Negro (a peasant) has dark skin from working in the sun.  In the end, Juan Blanco wins the girl, denoting the injustice the unequal wealth and power perpetuates.  For mysterious reasons, the girl is played by an unmasked man in a dress. The dance is also performed in adjoining parts of Veracruz.

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TITLE: Cojó Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Tabasco
ETHNICITY: Chontal
DESCRIPTION: Cojó Mask
MAKER: Unknown maker in Tenosique
CEREMONY: Danza Correr del Pochó
AGE: ca. 1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: paint

During Carnival and the saint’s holiday of Tenosique, local Chontal people perform La Danza Correr del Pochó, or less formally, El Pochó.  El Pochó is a pre-Christian god that the missionaries tried to characterize as evil.  As a result, modern festivals end in the defeat and burning of Pochó. The Danze del Pochó has three main characters: cojóes, the pochoveras, and the tigres.  They dance to the music of native flutes and drums.

Cojóes are men who represent the first Chontal people, created from the pulp of maize. The cojó masks, such as this one, are always made of wood and have a distinct streamlined style with a sloping nose. The reason for the mask is said to be that Pochó immediately considered human beings his enemy, and so the Chontals wore masks so that Pochó could not recognize them. The costume consists of a coarse coat, a cloth mantle, a skirt of leaves, and a straw hat decorated with large leaves, flowers, and chewing gum boxes. They carry a long rattle shaped like a thick stick filled with changala seeds.

The pochoveras are priestesses of the god Pochó and keep a fire burning on his alter. Pochoveras also wear a hat with leaves and flowers.

The tigres, called balandes in the Chontal language, are masked characters who paint their body with white clay and black spots made of coal to simulate the jaguar pelt. They may also wear an animal skin. The role of the tigres is to attack the cojóes with the help of the pochoveras, on behalf of Pochó. However, the cojóes inevitably win, defeating the tigres and extinguishing Pochó’s fire.

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TITLE: Piaroa Kohue Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Brazil
SUBREGION: Orinoco River Basin
ETHNICITY: Piaroa
DESCRIPTION: Kohue (Vampire Bat) Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Warime Ritual
AGE: 1980s
MAIN MATERIAL: clay
OTHER MATERIALS: wicker; bark cloth; beeswax; pigment; dried grass

The Piaroa people inhabit the Orinoco River Basin region of Venezuela. They are an extremely peaceful people with a political structure that anthropologists describe as nearly anarchic.

The warime ceremony is the biggest festival of Piaroa society. It includes a purification ritual in which masqueraders represent animal spirits and proclaim their deeds of the year to the tribe, good and bad, to seek respectively praise or forgiveness. This mask represents an animal spirit, specifically the Kohue (vampire bat).

Masqueraders must receive religious instruction from a shaman beforehand, and his incantation is accompanied by music on traditional instruments.

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TITLE: Scheller Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Europe
COUNTRY: Austria
SUBREGION: Tyrol
ETHNICITY: Tyrolean
DESCRIPTION: Scheller Mask
MAKER: Unknown maker in Imst
CEREMONY: Fasnacht (Carnival) – Schemenlaufen
AGE: ca. 1890
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: paint

The Carnival in the Tyrolean region of Austria is called Fasnacht. In the town of Imst, a ritual known as Schemenlaufen is held every four years, usually on the Sunday before Nonsensical Thursday. Only men traditionally participate, and the celebration involves an elaborate series of events beginning with men carted around town in bear costumes and beaten by masked trainers to the tune of flutes and tambourines. They are followed by series of masked paraders of various defined types, such as the Kübelmaje (bucket girl), Gschnapp (witch), and heavily bearded Laggeroller. The two main characters, however, are the Scooter and the Scheller. The Scooter wears a smooth mask with pursed lips, a Tyrolean costume, a belt of small sleigh bells (Gröll), and an and an elaborate headdress looking like a decorated Christmas tree. The Scheller, represented by this mask, has an oversized mustache, and wears a costume and headdress similar to the Scooter‘s, but his belt has large cowbells (Gschall). In addition, the Scooter carries a large horsehair whisk on a long stick, while the Scheller carries a long stick. During the parade, they dance together, with the Scooter hopping up and down, and the Scheller calmly jingling his Gschall.

Unfortunately, the best book on Austrian masking traditions is available in German only: Albert Bärtsch, Holzmasken: Fasnachts- und Maskenbrauchtum in der Schweiz, in Süddeutschland und Österreich (AT Verlag 1993).

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TITLE: Shamanic Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Asia
COUNTRY: Nepal
SUBREGION: Middle Hills
ETHNICITY: Gurung or Magar
DESCRIPTION: Shamanic Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Healing; Purification
AGE: 1890s-1920s
MAIN MATERIAL: smoked wood
OTHER MATERIALS: animal fat; animal hair; natural adhesive

This mask originates in the middle hills area of the Himalaya mountains, either from the Gurung or Magar people. Such masks are among the most primitive in use in the world, and are made by carving wood, coating it with yak butter fat, and charring it over a smoky fire.

The shaman plays an important social role as the channeler of spirits for healing, purification, and protection of those under his supervision. Masks help the shaman embody one of the spirits that surround the living world and use it to heal the sick, drive away evil influences, and guide villagers through changes in their lives (birth, adulthood, changes in social status, death) that might be affected by the spirit world. When hung in a house, the mask serves a protective function.  The Magar and Gurung people use very similar masks for identical purposes.

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TITLE: Javanese Klana
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Asia
COUNTRY: Indonesia
SUBREGION: Java
ETHNICITY: Javanese
DESCRIPTION: Klana Gandrung Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Topeng Dance Drama
AGE: ca. 1950s
MAIN MATERIAL: pule wood
OTHER MATERIALS: paint

The Topeng dance drama of the island of Java centers around the political history of the region and are called Babad Dalem (Chronicles of the Kings) or Raket. The most popular story centers around the national hero Panji, whose consort Dewi Chandrakirana is abducted by the powerful King Klana Gandrung (also called Sewandana) of Bantarangin.

This specific mask represents King Klana and is used most commonly in the Cirebon Topeng in West Java.  The actor wearing the mask would be mute; instead, a dalang (controller) in the orchestra would speak his character’s lines for him.

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TITLE: Moor (Calavera) Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Veracruz
ETHNICITY: Nahua
DESCRIPTION: Moro (Moor) Mask in the form of a Calavera con Serpientes (Skull with Snakes)
MAKER: Rafael Mesa Oliva, Naolinco (1978- )
CEREMONY: Fiesta de San Mateo (Danza de los Pilatos)
AGE: 2018
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: oil-based paint; lacquer; rubber; silicon glue; string

The Danza de los Pilatos, also called La Danza de los Moros y Cristianos (Dance of the Moors and Christians), is an important celebration in the Mexican state of Veracruz. The dance reenacts the reconquest Spain from the Saracens by the European Christians. The dance arose from the teachings of missionaries as part of an effort to instill respect for and fear of the Spaniards in the indigenous peoples, and to convince them that the victory of Christianity over other faiths—by violence whenever necessary—was inevitable.

The dance is still performed widely in Mexico, including in Mexico State, Michoacán, Puebla, and Veracruz. Characters vary depending on locality, although they always include “Christians” or “Spaniards” and Moors. In Naolinco, Veracruz, the dance is performed on the holiday of the town patron saint, St. Matthew (Fiesta de San Mateo), celebrated on Sept. 20-21 every year.  There, Moors take many forms, including devils, pirates, clowns, or, as here, skeletons. This mask represents a Moor in the form of a skeleton (calavera), with frightful decorations on its face. It was carved by the master craftsman, Rafael Mesa Oliva.

For more on masks from Veracruz, see Bryan J. Stevens, Mexican Masks and Puppets: Master Carvers of the Sierra de Puebla (Atglen, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Pub’g, 2012).

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TITLE: Moor (Diablo) Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Veracruz
ETHNICITY: Nahua
DESCRIPTION: Moro (Moor) Mask in the form of a Diablo (Devil)
MAKER: Lino Mora Rivera, Naolinco (1956- )
CEREMONY: Fiesta de San Mateo (Danza de los Pilatos)
AGE: 1983
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: oil-based paint; leather; adhesive; string

The Danza de los Pilatos, also called La Danza de los Moros y Cristianos (Dance of the Moors and Christians), is an important celebration in the Mexican state of Veracruz. The dance reenacts the reconquest Spain from the Saracens by the European Christians. The dance arose from the teachings of missionaries as part of an effort to instill respect for and fear of the Spaniards in the indigenous peoples, and to convince them that the victory of Christianity over other faiths—by violence whenever necessary—was inevitable.

The dance is still performed widely in Mexico, including in Mexico State, Michoacán, Puebla, and Veracruz. Characters vary depending on locality, although they always include “Christians” or “Spaniards” and Moors. In Naolinco, Veracruz, the dance is performed on the holiday of the town patron saint, St. Matthew (Fiesta de San Mateo), celebrated on Sept. 20-21 every year.  There, Moors take many forms, including devils, pirates, clowns, or skeletons. This mask represents a Moor in the form of a devil (diablo). It was carved by the master craftsman, Lino Mora Rivera. This mask was danced between 1983 and 2013 in Naolinco by various owners and renters.

For more on masks from Veracruz, see Bryan J. Stevens, Mexican Masks and Puppets: Master Carvers of the Sierra de Puebla (Atglen, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Pub’g, 2012).

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TITLE: Moor (Calavera) Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Veracruz
ETHNICITY: Nahua
DESCRIPTION: Moor (Calavera) Mask
MAKER: Rafael Mesa Oliva, Naolinco (1978- )
CEREMONY: Fiesta de San Mateo (Danza de los Pilatos)
AGE: 2015
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: oil-based paint; string

The Danza de los Pilatos, also called La Danza de los Moros y Cristianos (Dance of the Moors and Christians), is an important celebration in the Mexican state of Veracruz. The dance reenacts the reconquest Spain from the Saracens by the European Christians. The dance arose from the teachings of missionaries as part of an effort to instill respect for and fear of the Spaniards in the indigenous peoples, and to convince them that the victory of Christianity over other faiths—by violence whenever necessary—was inevitable.

The dance is still performed widely in Mexico, including in Mexico State, Michoacán, Puebla, and Veracruz. Characters vary depending on locality, although they always include “Christians” or “Spaniards” and Moors. In Naolinco, Veracruz, the dance is performed on the holiday of the town patron saint, St. Matthew (Fiesta de San Mateo), celebrated on Sept. 20-21 every year.  There, Moors take many forms, including devils, pirates, clowns, or, as here, skeletons. This mask represents a Moor in the form of a skeleton (calavera), with a Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos) theme.  It was danced in Naolinco for three years (2015-2017).

For more on masks from Veracruz, see Bryan J. Stevens, Mexican Masks and Puppets: Master Carvers of the Sierra de Puebla (Atglen, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Pub’g, 2012).

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TITLE: Moor (Jaguar Warrior) Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Veracruz
ETHNICITY: Nahua
DESCRIPTION: Moro (Moor) Mask in the form of an Ocelotecuintli (Jaguar Warrior)
MAKER: Rafael Mesa Oliva, Naolinco (1978- )
CEREMONY: Fiesta de San Mateo (Danza de los Pilatos)
AGE: 2018
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: oil-based paint; lacquer

The Danza de los Pilatos, also called La Danza de los Moros y Cristianos (Dance of the Moors and Christians), is an important celebration in the Mexican state of Veracruz. The dance reenacts the reconquest Spain from the Saracens by the European Christians. The dance arose from the teachings of missionaries as part of an effort to instill respect for and fear of the Spaniards in the indigenous peoples, and to convince them that the victory of Christianity over other faiths—by violence whenever necessary—was inevitable.

The dance is still performed widely in Mexico, including in Mexico State, Michoacán, Puebla, and Veracruz. Characters vary depending on locality, although they always include “Christians” or “Spaniards” and Moors. In Naolinco, Veracruz, the dance is performed on the holiday of the town patron saint, St. Matthew (Fiesta de San Mateo), celebrated on Sept. 20-21 every year.  There, Moors take many forms, including devils, pirates, clowns, or skeletons. Although most characters are evil, others, such as Apaches (representing indigenous Americans), are portrayed as Moors because indigenous peoples opposed the Catholic invasion of Mexico. This mask represents an Aztec ocelotecuintli, or jaguar warrior.

For more on masks from Veracruz, see Bryan J. Stevens, Mexican Masks and Puppets: Master Carvers of the Sierra de Puebla (Atglen, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Pub’g, 2012).

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