TITLE: Negrita
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Bolivia
SUBREGION: Oruro
ETHNICITY: Quechua and Aymara
DESCRIPTION: Negrita (Little Black Woman) Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Carnival (La Negrada)
AGE: 1950s
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).

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TITLE: Cajun Mardi Gras
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: North America
COUNTRY: United States of America
SUB-REGION: Acadiana, Louisiana
ETHNICITY: Cajun
DESCRIPTION: Burlap Mardi Gras Mask
MAKER: Chris Raymond (Metairie, Louisiana, 1964- )
CEREMONY: Courir de Mardi Gras
AGE: 2014
MAIN MATERIAL: jute burlap
OTHER MATERIALS: steel wire mesh; glue; paint; elastic band

In Catholic practice, Mardi Gras (“Fat Tuesday”) is the last day of celebration of Carnival before the fasting period of Lent. In the Acadiana country of southern Louisiana, the descendants of French Canadian immigrants known as “Cajuns” (short for “Acadians”) celebrate Mardi Gras in a manner quite different from the better known Carnival of New Orleans.  The Courir de Mardi Gras (Mardi Gras parade) occurs in most towns of Cajun country only on Mardi Gras itself.

Masqueraders wear full or partial wire mesh masks and quilted suits with tall, conical hats covered in colorful fabric.  They either ride from farm to farm on horseback or drive as a group in trucks with an unmasked leader wearing the traditional Mardi Gras colors of green, purple, and gold.  When they reach a farm, the captain, who carries a whip in one hand and a white flag in the other, approaches the farmer and asks: “Le Mardi Gras demande votre permission pour visiter ta maison” (“The Mardi Gras requests permission to visit your house”), or words to that effect. Upon assent, the revelers descend and run or crawl toward the house, singing a begging song, then exploding into pranks and comedic antics while the captain tries to subdue them with his whip. The only way to make them leave is to donate gifts or money, traditionally a chicken for the evening gumbo, in which the farmer is invited to partake.

For more on the Acadian Carnival celebration, see the excellent book by Carl Lindahl and Carolyn Ware, Cajun Mardi Gras Masks (University Press of Mississippi, 1997).


A short video featuring Cajun Mardi Gras in Eunice, Louisiana, 2019.

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TITLE: Cajun Mardi Gras
TYPE: face mask; costume
GENERAL REGION: North America
COUNTRY: United States of America
SUB-REGION: Acadiana, Louisiana
ETHNICITY: Cajun
DESCRIPTION: Cajun Mardi Gras Mask and Costume
MAKER: Tom Norman, Church Point (1940-2019)
CEREMONY: Courir de Mardi Gras
AGE: 2017
MAIN MATERIAL: steel wire mesh; dyed cotton cloth
OTHER MATERIALS: vinyl; plastic decorations; elastic band; silicone glue; acrylic paint; cotton batting; brass bells

In Catholic practice, Mardi Gras (“Fat Tuesday”) is the last day of celebration of Carnival before the fasting period of Lent. In the Acadiana country of southern Louisiana, the descendants of French Canadian immigrants known as “Cajuns” (short for “Acadians”) celebrate Mardi Gras in a manner quite different from the better known Carnival of New Orleans.  The Courir de Mardi Gras (Mardi Gras parade) occurs in most towns of Cajun country only on Mardi Gras itself.

Masqueraders wear full or partial wire mesh masks and quilted suits with tall, conical hats covered in colorful fabric.  They either ride from farm to farm on horseback or drive as a group in trucks with an unmasked leader wearing the traditional Mardi Gras colors of green, purple, and gold.  When they reach a farm, the captain, who carries a whip in one hand and a white flag in the other, approaches the farmer and asks: “Le Mardi Gras demande votre permission pour visiter ta maison” (“The Mardi Gras requests permission to visit your house”), or words to that effect. Upon assent, the revelers descend and run or crawl toward the house, singing a begging song, then exploding into pranks and comedic antics while the captain tries to subdue them with his whip. The only way to make them leave is to donate gifts or money, traditionally a chicken for the evening gumbo, in which the farmer is invited to partake.

For more on the Acadian Carnival celebration, see the excellent book by Carl Lindahl and Carolyn Ware, Cajun Mardi Gras Masks (University Press of Mississippi, 1997).


A short video featuring Cajun Mardi Gras in Eunice, Louisiana, 2019.

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TITLE: Silvesterklaus
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Europe
COUNTRY: Switzerland
SUBREGION: Appenzell Ausserrhoden
ETHNICITY: Swiss
DESCRIPTION: Schöne Silvesterklaus Mask
MAKER: Verena Steiger, Urnäsch
CEREMONY: St. Sylvester’s Day (New Year’s Eve)
AGE: 1990
MAIN MATERIAL: cloth; wax
OTHER MATERIALS: paint; metal o-rings

On New Year’s Eve on both the Gregorian (December 31) and Julian (January 13) calendars, Appenzell Canton, Switzerland, sees yodeling mummers pass through the town wearing masks and elaborate costumes in honor of Saint Sylvester. The costume includes large bells and a headdress, although the appearance of the mummers varies. There are three types of Chlausen: schöne (pretty), schö-wüeschte (pretty-ugly), and wüeschte (ugly). This mask represents a schöne, and would be worn with an elaborate headdress with scenes of peasant life and a traditional Appenzeller costume. The ugly masks are skillfully made to look frightening, and the mask and costume are both composed of fir branches and needles, ivy, moss, or other natural materials. Pretty-ugly characters have the schöne mask like this one, but the natural costume of a wüeschte.

For more on traditional Tyrolean folk masks, see Claus Hansmann, Masken Schemen Larven: Volksmasken der Aplenländer (Munich: Verlag F. Bruckmann, 1959).

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TITLE: Aya Huma
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Ecuador
SUBREGION: Otavalo
ETHNICITY: Quechua
DESCRIPTION: Aya Huma (Diablo Umo)
MAKER: Unknown maker in Otavalo
CEREMONY: Inti Raymi
AGE: late 1990s
MAIN MATERIAL: dyed acrylic wool yarn
OTHER MATERIALS: N/A

In Ecuador and Peru, the winter solstice is sometimes still celebrated by honoring the Incan sun god, Inti.  Some mistakenly consider this a summer solstice ceremony, apparently forgetting that, except in Colombia and the northern tip of Ecuador, the Andes are south of the Equator. Inti Raymi takes place annually on June 24 and recreates the Incan ceremonies of the period.

Among the regalia worn during the celebration is the Aya Huma mask and suit, sometimes known as Diablo Umo. The Aya Huma carries a whip to drive away evil spirits during the ceremony. His mask is double-sided so that he cannot be surprised by evil spirits from behind. The rather symmetrical ears and noses represent the four cardinal points.  Although traditionally representing a protector spirit, Catholic zealots among the colonizers branded the masquerader satanic, whence comes the name Diablo Umo (Devil Head).

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TITLE: Cajun Mardi Gras
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: North America
COUNTRY: United States of America
SUB-REGION: Acadiana, Louisiana
ETHNICITY: Cajun
DESCRIPTION: Paisley Cloth Mardi Gras Mask
MAKER: Tom Norman, Church Point (1940-2019)
CEREMONY: Courir de Mardi Gras
AGE: 2017
MAIN MATERIAL: steel wire mesh
OTHER MATERIALS: dyed cotton cloth; polyester cloth; brass and enamel pin; elastic band; silicone glue; acrylic paint; cotton batting

In Catholic practice, Mardi Gras (“Fat Tuesday”) is the last day of celebration of Carnival before the fasting period of Lent. In the Acadiana country of southern Louisiana, the descendants of French Canadian immigrants known as “Cajuns” (short for “Acadians”) celebrate Mardi Gras in a manner quite different from the better known Carnival of New Orleans.  The Courir de Mardi Gras (Mardi Gras parade) occurs in most towns of Cajun country only on Mardi Gras itself.

Masqueraders wear full or partial wire mesh masks and quilted suits with tall, conical hats covered in colorful fabric.  They either ride from farm to farm on horseback or drive as a group in trucks with an unmasked leader wearing the traditional Mardi Gras colors of green, purple, and gold.  When they reach a farm, the captain, who carries a whip in one hand and a white flag in the other, approaches the farmer and asks: “Le Mardi Gras demande votre permission pour visiter ta maison” (“The Mardi Gras requests permission to visit your house”), or words to that effect. Upon assent, the revelers descend and run or crawl toward the house, singing a begging song, then exploding into pranks and comedic antics while the captain tries to subdue them with his whip. The only way to make them leave is to donate gifts or money, traditionally a chicken for the evening gumbo, in which the farmer is invited to partake.

For more on the Acadian Carnival celebration, see the excellent book by Carl Lindahl and Carolyn Ware, Cajun Mardi Gras Masks (University Press of Mississippi, 1997).


A short video featuring Cajun Mardi Gras in Eunice, Louisiana, 2019.

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TITLE: Moreno
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Bolivia
SUBREGION: Oruro
ETHNICITY: Quechua and Aymara
DESCRIPTION: Moreno (Moor) Helmet Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Carnival (La Morenada)
AGE: 1960s
MAIN MATERIAL: linen; plaster
OTHER MATERIALS: glass eyes; dyed plant fibers; paint

The Morenada (Dance of the Moors) is an annual ceremony in several towns in the Altiplano region of Bolivia, Peru, and northern Chile, usually incorporated into Carnival.  The dance includes both male and female Moors dancing in a group with whips, rattles, or scepters. A King of the Moors (Rey de Morenos) presides and coordinates the dance. The dance typically occurs in the course of a parade, with marching bands playing musical scores for the dancers.  The precise origins of the Morenada are the subject of debate, with most specialists concluding that the dance was inspired by African slaves brought to Bolivia to work the mines or the subsequent integration of Africans into the Yungas community near La Paz.  The morena wears a fancy version of the traditional Bolivian costume with the classic bowler hat.

This mask represents a male moreno, or Moor, made in the 1960s from linen covered in plaster.  The Moors obviously never reached Bolivia, but they are represented in honor of the Spanish reconquest of Granada from the Moors in 1492.  The morenos dance as a group of males and females, both wear an elaborate and colorful costume.  Males carry a scepter, whip, or matraca (rattle).

For more on Bolivian masquerade, see Peter McFarren ed., Masks of the Bolivian Andes (La Paz: Editorial Quipus/Banco Mercantil SA, 1993).

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TITLE: Cajun Mardi Gras
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: North America
COUNTRY: United States of America
SUB-REGION: Acadiana, Louisiana
ETHNICITY: Cajun
DESCRIPTION: Paisley Cloth Mardi Gras Mask
MAKER: Tom Norman, Church Point (1940-2019)
CEREMONY: Courir de Mardi Gras
AGE: 2017
MAIN MATERIAL: steel wire mesh
OTHER MATERIALS: dyed cotton cloth; polyester cloth; brass and enamel pin; elastic band; silicone glue; acrylic paint; cotton batting

In Catholic practice, Mardi Gras (“Fat Tuesday”) is the last day of celebration of Carnival before the fasting period of Lent. In the Acadiana country of southern Louisiana, the descendants of French Canadian immigrants known as “Cajuns” (short for “Acadians”) celebrate Mardi Gras in a manner quite different from the better known Carnival of New Orleans.  The Courir de Mardi Gras (Mardi Gras parade) occurs in most towns of Cajun country only on Mardi Gras itself.

Masqueraders wear full or partial wire mesh masks and quilted suits with tall, conical hats covered in colorful fabric.  They either ride from farm to farm on horseback or drive as a group in trucks with an unmasked leader wearing the traditional Mardi Gras colors of green, purple, and gold.  When they reach a farm, the captain, who carries a whip in one hand and a white flag in the other, approaches the farmer and asks: “Le Mardi Gras demande votre permission pour visiter ta maison” (“The Mardi Gras requests permission to visit your house”), or words to that effect. Upon assent, the revelers descend and run or crawl toward the house, singing a begging song, then exploding into pranks and comedic antics while the captain tries to subdue them with his whip. The only way to make them leave is to donate gifts or money, traditionally a chicken for the evening gumbo, in which the farmer is invited to partake.

For more on the Acadian Carnival celebration, see the excellent book by Carl Lindahl and Carolyn Ware, Cajun Mardi Gras Masks (University Press of Mississippi, 1997).


A short video featuring Cajun Mardi Gras in Eunice, Louisiana, 2019.

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TITLE: Aya Huma
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Ecuador
SUBREGION: Tabacundo
ETHNICITY: Quechua
DESCRIPTION: Aya Huma (Diablo Umo)
MAKER: Unknown maker in Tabacundo
CEREMONY: Inti Raymi
AGE: 1983
MAIN MATERIAL: dyed cloth
OTHER MATERIALS: dyed thread; cotton wadding

In Ecuador and Peru, the winter solstice is sometimes still celebrated by honoring the Incan sun god, Inti.  Some mistakenly consider this a summer solstice ceremony, apparently forgetting that, except in Colombia and the northern tip of Ecuador, the Andes are south of the Equator.   Inti Raymi takes place annually on June 24 and recreates the Incan ceremonies of the period.

Among the regalia worn during the celebration is the Aya Huma mask and suit, sometimes known as Diablo Umo. The Aya Huma carries a whip to drive away evil spirits during the ceremony. His mask is double-sided so that he cannot be surprised by evil spirits from behind. The rather symmetrical ears and noses represent the four cardinal points.  Although traditionally representing a protector spirit, Catholic zealots among the colonizers branded the masquerader satanic, whence comes the name Diablo Umo (Devil Head).

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TITLE: Kusillo
TYPE: mask and costume
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Peru
SUBREGION: Puno
ETHNICITY: Aymara; Quechua
DESCRIPTION: Kusillo Mask and Costume
MAKER: Unknown maker in Puno
CEREMONY: Agriculture/Hunting; Carnival
AGE: 1980s
MAIN MATERIAL: dyed wool felt
OTHER MATERIALS: yarn; cardboard; sequins; cotton batting

The kusillo is an Andean clown character that combines attributes of an insect, shepherd, and devil, although he is considered a benevolent trickster. It is one of the oldest masked characters in the region, predating the Spanish conquest. It is used in both Bolivia and Peru as a comic dancer, as well as a promoter of fertility during agricultural and hunting rites. Until the 1960s, the kusillos formed their own dance group, however, with their own music and group choreography. In modern times, he makes his appearance alone or in pairs during Carnival, along with the waka tokhoris or other groups, and sometimes at other festivities as well.

The upturned nose and appendages on the head are thought to be phallic symbols, expressing the kusillo‘s nature as a promoter of fertility. In addition, the kusillo tries to seduce girls in the crowd, reflecting both his fertility and trickster roles.  To facilitate this behavior, socially unacceptable otherwise, he wears white gloves and long pants to prevent recognition.

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