TITLE: Topeng Bondres
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Asia
COUNTRY: Indonesia
SUBREGION: Bali
ETHNICITY: Balinese
DESCRIPTION: Bondres Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Topeng Dance Drama; Barong Performance
AGE: ca. 1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: pule wood
OTHER MATERIALS: human hair; adhesive; paint

The Topeng dance drama is an important traditional entertainment and education on the island of Bali, Indonesia. Its origin can be traced to the oral history of the Balinese people and venerable palm-leaf written histories, influenced by Hinduism imported from India. The dance may have originated as early as 840 CE. The stories depicted in this drama, called Babad Dalem, tell a political history of the islands of Bali and Java as written by the court poets of the regional kings.

This specific mask represents a class of clownish characters known as bondres. Unlike this mask, the bondres character typically wears a half mask or an articulated full mask strapped to the head to allow for speaking or singing.  Unlike most Balinese masks, which portray stock characters, many bondres characters are unique representations of village types portrayed by the actor who owns the mask.

For more on Balinese masks, see Judy Slattum, Masks of Bali: Spirits of an Ancient Drama (San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1992).

:

TITLE: Yaka Kholuka Mask
TYPE: helmet mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Congo, Dem. Rep. of
ETHNICITY: Yaka
DESCRIPTION: Kholuka Makunda Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Makunda (N’khanda)
FUNCTION: Adult Initiation
AGE: ca. 1980s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: split cane; cotton cloth; resin; raffia; natural pigments

The Yaka people of Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have a male initiation society known as Makunda or N’khanda, which is charged with circumcising, hazing, and teaching boys to become a man (mainly, education in hunting and sex).  During the circumcision dance performances (kinkanda), the initiates wear special masks while their teachers alone are permitted to wear the ritual masks of the Makunda. After initiation, the boys are led out of seclusion and back into the community.  Before festivities can begin, the head teacher (kahyuudi or kayudi) commissions a carver (nkalaweeni or mvumbwa) to create a series of masks. Many types of masks are worn or danced in succession during the final initiation feast:

  • Kambaandzya (a raffia cloth domed helmet mask with a brim bisecting it; the mask is covered in black resin and painted with geometric designs in red, white, blue, and yellow)
  • Tsekedi (a leather or raffia cloth helmet mask with a white, human face and a series of horizontal discs on an inverted cone topping the helmet)
  • Mweelu (a helmet made of braided raffia fiber with large numbers of feathers; birdlike eyes in wood, gourd or bamboo; and a hornbill beak for a mouth)
  • Ndeemba (an abstract human face with bulging eyes carved of wood; many phallic rods come out of the helmet in all directions, including the inverted cone on the very top)
  • Kholuka (a polychrome human face with bulging eyes, and an open mouth showing the teeth, carved of wood; horizontal discs on an inverted cone come from the top, with bird feathers, and polychrome figures of humans or animals)

The kholuka, also known as a mbaala, is worn either by the leader of the initiation or the senior initiate.  It is the last danced, and it is danced alone to signal the end of the initiation ceremony. Unlike the other masked dances, which are entertaining to the audience, the kholuka creates a sense of unease due to the overtly sexual behavior of the dancer.

There are also masks not danced by initiates, known as Kakuungu. This mask is a large, long face mask with a distorted human-like face having bulbous chin, cheeks, and forehead.  It is thought to represent an ancestor and is danced by the herbal shaman to stop bleeding after the circumcision. Similarly, the mbawa, a mouthless helmet mask of raffia cloth over an ovular structure of split cane, with horn s to symbolize the pakasa buffalo, is not danced by initiates.

For more on Yaka masquerade, see Arthur P. Bourgeois, Art of the Yaka and Suku (1984).

:

TITLE: The Devil Inside Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Oaxaca
ETHNICITY: Mixtec
DESCRIPTION: Mask of a Devil Regurgitating Another Devil
MAKER: Luís Morales Ortíz, San Miguel Tlacotepec (1974- )
CEREMONY: Danza de los Diablos
AGE: 2021
MAIN MATERIAL: avocado wood
OTHER MATERIALS: goat horns; metal screws; adhesive; plastic eyes; false eyelashes; acrylic paint

The Danza de los Diablos (Dance of the Devils) is performed by the Mixtec people of Juxtlahuaca district on patron saint holidays, such the Festival of St. James (Fiesta de Santiago el Apostól) in Santiago Juxtlahuaca in late July. The dance involves a group of devils (no specific number) in coats and ties, with chivarras (goatskin chaps) and carrying whips, dancing in a group to the music of drums and trumpets.  Unlike other masked dances of the district, such as the Danza de los Rubios, which is performed in pairs to the music a violin and guitar and tells a story of cowboys and their women, or the Danza de los Chareos, which tells the story of the battle of the Catholics and Moors for the reconquest of Spain, the Dance of the Devils tells no story and there are no specific dance steps.  Every dancer capers and jumps according to his own style.

:

TITLE: Austrian Witch
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Europe
COUNTRY: Austria
ETHNICITY: Tyrolean
DESCRIPTION: Witch Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Carnival (Fasnacht); Perchtenlauf
AGE: 1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: softwood
OTHER MATERIALS: pigment

This mask represents a very typical witch from the Swabian-Tyrolean region of southern Europe. The witch mask is popular in Carnival parades, and it also may be worn during Perchtenlauf, or the running of the demons. In pre-Christian times, a witch-like character represented a primeval spirit that would threaten or benefit human society. With the coming of Catholicism to the region, the witch began to represent a woman who consorted with the Devil and therefore always threatened the established order. Until recently, most Christians, including those in the highest levels of the European and North American churches, believed that witches actually existed, and they burned thousands of helpless woman to death based on these religious superstitions.

Today, the witch is more a figure of fun than a threat. In Carnivals, she represents a purely imaginary character from historical folk tales. During Perchtenlauf, she is an ally of the Perchten, demons who punish disobedient or quarrelsome children around Christmastime by carrying them away in a sack and eating them.

:

TITLE: Nafana Bedu Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Côte d’Ivoire
ETHNICITY: Nafana
DESCRIPTION: Female Bedu Association Female Plank Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Agriculture; Celebration; Funeral; Purification; Secret Society
AGE: ca. 1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: kaolin; pigment

The Nafana people of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana have developed a Bedu Secret Society only in the last century. It is probably a successor to the Sakrobundi Secret Society banned by the British due to the Society’s function of violently punishing supposed sorcerers.  The Bedu society is charged with the less malignant function of village purification during a month-long new year’s celebration annually, as well as during harvest festivals and funerals.  The bedu itself represents a mythical ox-like beast that, in Nafana myth, cured a sick child and later disappeared into the bush.  Although these masks are worn over the face, their exceptional size requires them to be made of relatively light wood.

Bedu masks come in both genders, with the male masks having horns, and the female (such as this one) having a circle or disc on top. Most such masks of either gender are painted in kaolin clay with abstract geometrical patterns, checker marks and jagged fins being favored.  Sometimes red, blue, or black pigments are used as well.

:

TITLE: Devil-Catrina Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Oaxaca
ETHNICITY: Mixtec
DESCRIPTION: Diablesa-Catrina (Half Female Devil, Half Sugar Skull) Mask
MAKER: Luís Morales Ortíz, San Miguel Tlacotepec (1974- )
CEREMONY: Danza de los Diablos
AGE: 2020
MAIN MATERIAL: avocado wood
OTHER MATERIALS: goat horns; metal screws; adhesive; plastic eyes; false eyelashes; acrylic paint

The Danza de los Diablos (Dance of the Devils) is performed by the Mixtec people of Juxtlahuaca district on patron saint holidays, such the Festival of St. James (Fiesta de Santiago el Apostól) in Santiago Juxtlahuaca in late July. The dance involves a group of devils (no specific number) in coats and ties, with chivarras (goatskin chaps) and carrying whips, dancing in a group to the music of drums and trumpets.  Unlike other masked dances of the district, such as the Danza de los Rubios, which is performed in pairs to the music a violin and guitar and tells a story of cowboys and their women, or the Danza de los Chareos, which tells the story of the battle of the Catholics and Moors for the reconquest of Spain, the Dance of the Devils tells no story and there are no specific dance steps.  Every dancer capers and jumps according to his own style.

:

TITLE: Devil Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Oaxaca
ETHNICITY: Mixtec
DESCRIPTION: Diablo (Devil) Mask
MAKER: Luís Morales Ortíz, San Miguel Tlacotepec (1974- )
CEREMONY: Danza de los Diablos
AGE: 2020
MAIN MATERIAL: avocado wood
OTHER MATERIALS: deer antlers; metal screws; adhesive; plastic eyes; false eyelashes; acrylic paint

The Danza de los Diablos (Dance of the Devils) is performed by the Mixtec people of Juxtlahuaca district on patron saint holidays, such the Festival of St. James (Fiesta de Santiago el Apostól) in Santiago Juxtlahuaca in late July. The dance involves a group of devils (no specific number) in coats and ties, with chivarras (goatskin chaps) and carrying whips, dancing in a group to the music of drums and trumpets.  Unlike other masked dances of the district, such as the Danza de los Rubios, which is performed in pairs to the music a violin and guitar and tells a story of cowboys and their women, or the Danza de los Chareos, which tells the story of the battle of the Catholics and Moors for the reconquest of Spain, the Dance of the Devils tells no story and there are no specific dance steps.  Every dancer capers and jumps according to his own style.

:

TITLE: Shishi Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Asia
COUNTRY: Japan
SUBREGION: Kantō
ETHNICITY: Japanese
DESCRIPTION: Lion Dance (Shishi Mai) Mask (Gashira)
MAKER: Unknown maker in Gunma Prefecture
CEREMONY: Shishi Mai
AGE: 1940s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: paint; lacquer

The shishi mask represents a mythical lion that protects and purifies the region in which it dances, driving away evil spirits, famine, and disease. The shishi mai (lion dance) is performed throughout Japan on festival days, especially during the lunar new year and Buddha’s birthday. Its appearance varies in different villages, with the lion style (like this mask) predominating, but other animals, such as a deer, cow, or mythical kirin, used in certain villages. The lion is accompanied by a retinue of drummers playing the taiko drum, as it walks through the town, dancing and bestowing blessings on locals. To drive away evil spirits, the shishi bites the head of villagers, which brings good luck and health.

The lion dance originated in China and was brought to Japan by Chinese travelers around the early 16th century (Muromachi Period). As in China, the shishi can be danced by a sole performer or a group. In western Japan, the gigaku-kei style of shishi mai is performed by two or more dancers bundled into a long costume. In the Kantō and Tōhoku, the dance style is known as furyu-kei, and is performed by a single dancer, who beats a drum tied around his waist.

:

TITLE: Chwibari Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Asia
COUNTRY: Korea
SUBREGION: Songpa-dong, Seoul
ETHNICITY: Korean
DESCRIPTION: Chwibari (Drunkard) Mask
MAKER: Unknown maker in Seoul
CEREMONY: Songpa Sandae Nori Drama
FUNCTION: celebration; entertainment
AGE: 1980s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: paint; varnish; polyester cloth

Songpa Sandae Nori is a traditional masked play from the Songpa-dong and Garak-dong neighborhoods of Seoul, South Korea. Traditionally, the play begins with a parade circling the Songpa Market area to announce the performance. The actors and musicians then perform a ritual (seomakgosa) to sanctify the play and honor the ancestors.

The drama itself consists of either seven (short version) or twelve (long version) acts dealing with class conflict and human weakness and nobility.  In the play, thirty-three different masks are used to represent different characters.

This mask represents a drunkard (chwibari) who performs the kaekki chum dance. In the Fourth Act of the drama, a very holy monk abandons his doctrines and seduces a shaman girl. Later, a drunkard appears and, challenging the monk, wins the girl for himself.  After she bears his baby, she abandons him, and chwibari undertakes to educate his child himself.

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).

:

TITLE: Hemba Soko Mutu Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Democratic Republic of Congo
ETHNICITY: Hemba
DESCRIPTION: Soko Mutu (“Man’s Brother”) Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: funeral
AGE: 2000-2005
MAIN MATERIAL: hardwood
OTHER MATERIALS: N/A

The Hemba people of southeastern Congo are an agricultural group closely related to the Luba people. They live in ancestor-based clans headed by an elder (fuma mwalo) and organized by a secret society for men (Bukazanzi) and one for women (Bukibilo).

Among the east African peoples, masks rarely represent non-human primates, because the resemblances to human beings are considered unsettling. One important exception is the soko mutu (“man’s brother”) mask of the Hemba. The soko mutu represents a chimpanzee, and the raised eyebrows and wide, jagged mouth are intended to be fearsome.  The Hemba dance the soko mutu mask at funerals in order to symbolize the presence of death in the form of a chimpanzee spirit. Recently, some Hemba have begun calling the mask misi gwa so’o (chimpanzee spirit).

: