TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
ETHNICITY: Quechua and Aymara
DESCRIPTION: Negrita (Little Black Woman) Mask
CEREMONY: Carnival (La Negrada)
MAIN MATERIAL: linen; plaster
OTHER MATERIALS: paint; mirrors; string; vegetable fiber; cotton cloth
The negrita is the less common of the two kinds of dark-skinned characters in the Carnival of Oruro, Bolivia. Unlike the china morena, who represent the Moorish invaders of Spain, the negrita represents the progeny of African slaves brought to Bolivia to work the mines and farms. Their costume is colorful and highly embellished, and they tend to wear fancy European-type dress instead of the highly decorated traditional Bolivian costume of the china morena. Their dance, like the Morenada, is accompanied by male counterparts.
This specific mask was fashioned by a skilled mask-maker (caretero) in Oruro in the 1950s. At this time, mask makers were still frequently using linen soaked in plaster for their masks and hand painting them from start to finish.
For more on Bolivian masquerade, see Peter McFarren ed., Masks of the Bolivian Andes (La Paz: Editorial Quipus/Banco Mercantil SA, 1993).