Includes paper, paper maché, or cardboard.

TITLE: Pra Lersi Tai Fa
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Asia
COUNTRY: Thailand
ETHNICITY: Thai
DESCRIPTION: Pra Lersi Tai Fa
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Wai Kru Ceremony; Korb Siam Kru Ceremony
AGE: 1980s
MAIN MATERIAL: paper maché
OTHER MATERIALS: plaster; gold leaf; paint; ribbons

Lersi, a hermit sage, is an adherent of a minority religion in Thailand derived from the Indian Brahmin and Buddhist traditions. The Lersi path is accessible to the laity who wish to dedicate themselves to benevolent spiritual goals. The Lersi believe themselves to acquire supernatural powers, such as healing, levitation, teleportation, pyrokinesis, transmutation of matter, and telepathy through such practices as self-isolation, meditation, and training.

The mask is used in the Korb Siam Kru ceremony as a blessing and purification, to drive away evil spirits.  It is also used in the Wai Kru ceremony to transmit Buddhist merit from the giver to the receiver.  In all cases, the mask is worn on top of the heard as a crest, rather than over the eyes like a helmet.

Lersi masks take many forms, including Brahmin gods and animal spirits.  This specific mask represents Pra Lersi Tai Fa, an incarnation of the Hindu god Shiva, who has a third eye that burns all it gazes upon (although, in the strict Brahmin tradition, Shiva has no incarnations). The ribbons indicate it was used in a Wai Kru ceremony.

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TITLE: Volto Carnival Mask
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Europe
COUNTRY: Italy
SUBREGION: Venice
ETHNICITY: Italian
DESCRIPTION: Volto
MAKER: Carta Alta, Venice
CEREMONY: Carnival
AGE: 2011
MAIN MATERIAL: paper maché
OTHER MATERIALS: paint; ribbon

The volto (“face”) is a classic Venetian Carnival mask that covers the entire face for maximum anonymity. The lack of an opening, like the bauta mask, makes it appear more natural but less functional, as the masquerader must remove the mask for eating and drinking, and speaking is obstructed by the lack of a mouth opening.

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TITLE: Vejigante
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Caribbean
COUNTRY: Puerto Rico
SUBREGION: Ponce
ETHNICITY: Mestizo
DESCRIPTION: Vejigante Mask
MAKER: Miguel Caraballo Jr., Ponce
CEREMONY: Carnival
AGE: 2015
MAIN MATERIAL: paper maché
OTHER MATERIALS: gesso; paint

The Carnival paraders of Ponce, Puerto Rico traditionally use paper maché masks with multiple horns and sharp teeth, accompanied by colorful and frilly costumes, to represent fantastic devils. Most consider that the more horns a mask has, the better.  Formerly, participants carried an inflated goat or cow bladder (vejiga) on a string with which to bop passers-by on the posterior.  This is how the character got its name, vejigante (bladder-carrier). Today, goat bladders are in short supply, and this practice is rare. Vejigantes nonetheless remain an indispensable part of the Ponce Carnival.

A unique feature of the Ponce carnival is that it includes the burial of a giant symbolic sardine, carried by a parader dressed as a friar and another dressed as a hooked sardine.  The sardine symbolizes the Carnival itself, and the burial marks its end.

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TITLE: Hanuman Reamker Mask
TYPE: helmet mask
GENERAL REGION: Asia
COUNTRY: Cambodia
ETHNICITY: Khmer
DESCRIPTION: Hanuman Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Reamker Dance Drama
AGE: 1960s
MAIN MATERIAL: paper maché
OTHER MATERIALS: paste; gilding; mirrors; paint

Reamker is the Cambodian adaptation of the Hindu epic from India, the Ramayana. It is performed for public entertainment and features paper maché helmet masks on most male characters.  This specific character is Hanuman, the monkey god who plays the central role in assisting Rama (sometimes rendered “Phreah Ream” in Khmer), the hero of the epic, to recover his wife, who was abducted by the demon king Ravana (Krong Reap in Khmer).

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TITLE: Totsakan Khon Mask
TYPE: helmet mask
GENERAL REGION: Asia
COUNTRY: Thailand
SUBREGION: Bangkok
ETHNICITY: Thai
DESCRIPTION: Totsakan (Green) Khon
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Ramakien Dance Drama
AGE: 1960s
MAIN MATERIAL: paper maché
OTHER MATERIALS: plaster; gilding; mirrors; paint; mother-of-pearl teeth; wooden fangs

The Ramakien is the Thai adaptation of the traditional Hindu epic from India, the Ramayana.  Most male characters in the drama wear masks fashioned from paper maché and elaborately gilded, decorated, and painted.

This mask represents the demon king Totsakan, also written Tosakanth (or Ravana in Hindi), who is supposed to have 100 faces and 20 hands. His face is green during most of the play, but when he ascends to power his face turns gold.  Totsakan is the villain at the center of the Ramakien, as he abducts Sita, the beautiful wife of the hero, King Rama.  The remainder of the play focuses on Rama’s efforts, with his loyal demigod ally Hanuman, to rescue Sita and punish Totsakan.

For more on Thai khon masks, see Natthapatra Chandavij & Promporn Pramualratana, Thai Puppets and Khon Masks (Bangkok: River Books, 1998).

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TITLE: Waggis Carnival Mask
TYPE: helmet mask
GENERAL REGION: Europe
COUNTRY: Switzerland
SUBREGION: Basel
ETHNICITY: Swiss
DESCRIPTION: Waggis (Alsation) Carnival Helmet Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Fasnacht (Carnival)
AGE: ca. 1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: paper maché
OTHER MATERIALS: paint; plastic hair; wool hat

Fasnacht is what the Tyrolean Swiss call Carnival.  In many towns in Austria, southern Germany, Switzerland, and northern Italy, local folk don elaborate masks and costumes to parade through the town.  Different towns have variations on the parade, such as the Schemenlaufen of Imst, the Schellerlaufen of Nassereith, and the Muller and Matschgerer of Innsbruck, Austria.

In Basel, Switzerland, masks are almost all made of paper maché and take a helmet form. Armies of costumed clowns, musicians, and dancers, called cliques, parade around town in uniform mask styles for 72 nearly continuous hours on the Monday following Ash Wednesday. The paraders must wear their Larven (masks) throughout the parade and are expected never to remove the mask in order to identify themselves.  They throw confetti at crowd members with such proliferation that it blankets the streets.

Although there is a great deal of innovation and creativity in mask styles, there are certain styles that tend to reappear annually. This mask, known as Waggis, represents a big-nosed, frizzy-haired clown, who wears wooden clogs, a blue shirt, and a red neckerchief. He is a prankster who parodies the Alsatian farmers who formerly came to Basel market days to sell their produce (Waggis literally means a person from Alsace in Basel dialect). It was worn for several decades and retired after the 2010 parade.

Other common characters include the Alti Dante (old aunt), Dummbeeter (trumpetist) and Pierrot (a sad clown from the late Italian Commedia dell’Arte, known for his white and black makeup).

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TITLE: Lunar New Year Mask
TYPE: helmet mask
GENERAL REGION: Asia
COUNTRY: China
SUBREGION: Hong Kong
ETHNICITY: Han
DESCRIPTION: Elderly Woman “Big Head” Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Lunar New Year
FUNCTION: Celebration; Entertainment
AGE: 1980s
MAIN MATERIAL: paper maché
OTHER MATERIALS: gesso; paint; dyed polyester fabric

The Chinese celebrate the lunar new year with lion dances, parades, and fireworks throughout the country.  Normally, the celebration begins on new year’s eve and lasts 15 days, and it provides an opportunity for entertainment, family reunion, honoring ancestors, and planning for the coming year. In the parade, armies of “big-headed Buddhas” clad in traditional silk costumes (or their modern polyester equivalents) follow the lion dancers.  They cavort for the entertainment of the audience and to bring good fortune in the coming year. Among these masqueraders are old man and old woman characters, such as the one represented by this mask. In modern Hong Kong, this is the largest festival of the year, and includes floats and decorations throughout the city.

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