Includes paper, paper maché, or cardboard.

TITLE: Chhau Durga
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Asia
COUNTRY: India
SUBREGION: West Bengal
ETHNICITY: Bengali
DESCRIPTION: Durga (Shakti) Mask
MAKER: Unknown maker in Bagmundi
CEREMONY: Purulia Chhau Dance
AGE: 1990s
MAIN MATERIAL: paper maché
OTHER MATERIALS: gesso; wire; plastic beads; sequins; plastic feathers; human hair; paint

Chhau dance is a modern version of a classical Indian dance with tribal origins, originating in the Indian states of Jharkhand, Odisha, and West Bengal. The dance is usually structured around Hindu folk stories exalting the gods Shiva, Devi or Vishnu, and uses both elegant and martial techniques. The Purulia Chhau of West Bengal and the Serakeilla dance of Jharkhand most commonly use masks to identify the character portrayed.

This specific mask is of the Purulia type and portrays a god named Durga or Shakti, the principal form of the Hindu warrior goddess. She combats demonic armies with her multiple arms, each carrying weapons such as the bow, trident, shield and sword. She is often depicted as riding a tiger.

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TITLE: Carnival Half-Mask
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Europe
COUNTRY: Italy
SUBREGION: Venice
ETHNICITY: Italian
DESCRIPTION: Carnival Half-Mask
MAKER: Marilisa Dal Cason, Cogollo del Cengio (1960- )
CEREMONY: Carnival; Masked Balls
AGE: 2011
MAIN MATERIAL: paper maché; cloth
OTHER MATERIALS: sequins; ribbons

The Venetian Carnival has long been famed for its elaborate period costumes and elegant masks.  Mask-makers cluster in Venice to service the event, masked balls, and a lively tourist market.  Masks such as this one, both elegant and decorative, are popular during the Venetian Carnival. Half-masks are favored by women because of their practical advantages.  They provided privacy and shielded the most exposed part of the face from the damaging sun in an era where pale skin was a mark of beauty and aristocracy.  Moreover, they offer no impediment to eating, drinking or speaking.  The popularity of such masks soon spread throughout Europe, as evidenced by the painting of the French artist Joseph-Désiré Court in the mid-nineteenth century, depicting a coquette unmasking herself.

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TITLE: Ded Moroz
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Europe
COUNTRY: Russia
SUBREGION: Unknown
ETHNICITY: Russian
DESCRIPTION: Ded Moroz (Grandfather Frost) Mask
MAKER: Unknown maker
CEREMONY: Novy God (New Year’s Holiday)
AGE: ca. 1950s
MAIN MATERIAL: paper maché
OTHER MATERIALS: primer; paint; lacquer; string

The character Ded Moroz, or Grandfather Frost, is a traditional Slavic version of Santa Claus, who delivers gifts to good children on New Year’s Eve, as opposed to Christmas. He was accompanied by Snegurochka (Snow Maiden), his granddaughter and helper, and is believed to live in the small western Russian town of Veliky Ustyug. He wears long, silver and blue robes and a red furred cap or snowflake crown, carries a magic staff, and sometimes rides a snow sled pulled by horses (troika). The character is believed to predate Christianity and originate in a Slavic winter wizard born of Slavic pagan gods.

The Soviet Union strongly discouraged depictions of Ded Moroz as bourgeois and religious, but remained popular nonetheless as the symbol of New Year’s Holiday, which replaced the forbidden Christmas. In fact, the Dynamo Regional Council, a Soviet fitness and sports promotion organization, organized the production and sale of many kinds of New Year’s mask in many towns, including Leningrad, Rzhev, Vyshny Vokochok, Saratov, and Yaroslavl. Witches, animals, doctors, and even masks representing the Devil were sold.

The masks were probably designed by the artist S.M. Nyuhin, but little is known about the specific craftswomen who made them. They were shaped from mashed paper on gypsum molds; dried with electric heaters; cut and pierced; primed with oil, chalk and glue; and painted and lacquered.

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TITLE: Cora Tiznado Mask
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Nayarit
ETHNICITY: Cora
DESCRIPTION: Tiznado (Judio) Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Semana Santa (Holy Week)
AGE: late 1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: paper maché
OTHER MATERIALS: watercolor paint; cotton cloth; cotton wadding; elastic straps

The Cora people of Nayarit resisted Spanish colonization and proselytization long after most of Mexico succumbed, and their pre-Christian traditions still survive with a thin veneer of Catholicism. Traditionally, the Cora worship three gods, associated with the sun, the moon, and corn.

During the Semana Santa (Holy Week), Cora men paint their bodies with black and white stripes and wear judio (Jew) masks (also called borrados) designed to look like monsters and devils that carry swords and persecute the sun god, who takes the Catholic form of Jesus of Nazareth. The characters are known as tiznados (“covered with ash”).  On Good Friday, the judios capture and kill the sun god, who is resurrected the next day and banishes the judios.

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TITLE: First Yangban
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Asia
COUNTRY: Korea
SUBREGION: Hwanghae Province
ETHNICITY: Korean
DESCRIPTION: Bongsan Talchum First Yangban (Educated Nobleman) Mask
MAKER: Gim Gisu
CEREMONY: Talchum Drama
FUNCTION: celebration; entertainment
AGE: 1977
MAIN MATERIAL: paper maché
OTHER MATERIALS: cotton hood; animal fur; paint

Talchum has been called Korea’s first “professional” masked dance drama, although it originated as part of seasonal festivities in the Bongsan region, it later relocated to Sariwon, on a major trade route, and during the Japanese Colonial Era was performed in a theater for paying patrons. The drama is accompanied by music played on a small samheyon yukgak ensemble, consisting of three aerophones, one chordophone, and two membranophones.

This mask represents a superficial nobleman (yangban) with a cleft lip. In the play, this character is shown to be undignified and unworthy of his title.

For more on Korean masquerade, see Jeon Kyung-wook, Korean Mask Dance Dramas: Their History and Structural Principles (Gyeonggi-do, Rep. of Korea: Youlhwadang Pub. 2005).

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TITLE: Paper Carnival Mask
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Europe
COUNTRY: Germany
SUBREGION: N/A
ETHNICITY: German
DESCRIPTION: Character Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Carnival
AGE: ca. 1930s
MAIN MATERIAL: kraft paper
OTHER MATERIALS: paint

During the 1920s and 1930s in Europe, sluggish economies created demand for inexpensive versions of traditional Carnival masks that had previously been made from wood or thick paper maché. Enterprising companies began making disposable masks from cheaper kraft paper, hand painted by the abundant labor available due to high unemployment. This mask originates in Germany and represents a young man.

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TITLE: Saqra Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Peru
SUBREGION: Paucartambo
ETHNICITY: Quechua; Aymara
DESCRIPTION: Saqra (Devil) Mask
MAKER: Unknown maker in Paucartambo
CEREMONY: Danza Saqra (Kuwallada)
AGE: ca. 1970s-1980s
MAIN MATERIAL: paper maché
OTHER MATERIALS: plaster; paint; string

The city of Paucartambo, Peru, celebrates the Festival of the Virgin of Carmen (Mamacha Carmen) annually on July 16th. The Festival begins by the carrying of an image of the Virgin Mary through the streets to the church. Among the festivities that follow is the Kuwallada, a festival involving numerous masked characters in elaborate costumes. One component of Kuwallada is the Danza Saqra.  The term saqra is Quechua for “wicked” or “devil” and represents tricksters dressed as animals or devils.  They are not really “evil,” but merely mischievous.

The saqra troupe has a fairly complex organization, with a leader (caporal), two captains (capitánes), a female saqra (china saqra), soldiers, “pets” (mascotas), clowns known as maitas or qhapac qollas, who wear the waq’ollo mask, and the carguyoc, who is an organizer who accompanies (and provides beer for) the musicians.


Click above to watch a short documentary on Corpus Christi in Cusco, Peru.

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TITLE: Kali Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Asia
COUNTRY: India
SUBREGION: Unknown, probably Uttar Pradesh or West Bengal
ETHNICITY: Bengali
DESCRIPTION: Kali (Durga) Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Vijayadashmi Festival; Dussehra Festival
AGE: ca. 1960s
MAIN MATERIAL: paper maché
OTHER MATERIALS: paint

During Vijayadashmi and Dussehra festivals, the Ramlila story is frequently reenacted by masked actors. The Ramlila is a story of the god avatar Rama, similar to the story told in the Ramayana.

This mask represents Kali, a god who leapt from Durga’s brow in order to kill certain demons, but became so battle raged that she began killing everything in her path until Shiva stopped her by throwing himself under her feet. Kali is considered another side of Durga, but destructive and evil, and so she appears black and ferocious, with fangs.

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TITLE: Paper Carnival Mask
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Europe
COUNTRY: France
SUBREGION: N/A
ETHNICITY: French
DESCRIPTION: Character Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Carnival
AGE: ca. 1930s
MAIN MATERIAL: kraft paper
OTHER MATERIALS: paint; copper wire; human hair

During the 1930s in Europe, sluggish economies created demand for inexpensive versions of traditional Carnival masks that had previously been made from wood or thick paper maché. Enterprising companies began making disposable masks from cheaper kraft paper, hand painted by the abundant labor available due to high unemployment. This mask originates in France and represents a clown-like character. The toothbrush mustache originated in United States around 1900 and spread to Europe, where it remained popular until early 1940s.

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TITLE: Ded Moroz
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Europe
COUNTRY: Russia
SUBREGION: Unknown
ETHNICITY: Russian
DESCRIPTION: Ded Moroz (Grandfather Frost) Mask
MAKER: Unknown maker from Voronezh
CEREMONY: Novy God (New Year’s Holiday)
AGE: ca. 1980s
MAIN MATERIAL: thin cardboard
OTHER MATERIALS: primer; paint; lacquer; string

The character Ded Moroz, or Grandfather Frost, is a traditional Slavic version of Santa Claus, who delivers gifts to good children on New Year’s Eve, as opposed to Christmas. He was accompanied by Snegurochka (Snow Maiden), his granddaughter and helper, and is believed to live in the small western Russian town of Veliky Ustyug. He wears long, silver and blue robes and a red furred cap or snowflake crown, carries a magic staff, and sometimes rides a snow sled pulled by horses (troika). The character is believed to predate Christianity and originate in a Slavic winter wizard born of Slavic pagan gods.

The Soviet Union strongly discouraged depictions of Ded Moroz as bourgeois and religious, but remained popular nonetheless as the symbol of New Year’s Holiday, which replaced the forbidden Christmas. In fact, the Dynamo Regional Council, a Soviet fitness and sports promotion organization, organized the production and sale of many kinds of New Year’s mask in many towns, including Leningrad, Rzhev, Vyshny Vokochok, Saratov, and Yaroslavl. Witches, animals, doctors, and even masks representing the Devil were sold.

This specific mask was made in the Dynamo Workshop of the Voronezh Sports Complex, which produced them between 1951 and 1991. The masks were probably designed by the artist S.M. Nyuhin, but little is known about the specific craftswomen who made them. They were originally shaped from mashed paper on gypsum molds; dried with electric heaters; cut and pierced; primed with oil, chalk and glue; and painted and lacquered. In the 1970s, aluminum molds replaced the gypsum and cardboard substituted for paper maché, but the skilled hand painting continued.

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