TITLE: Pende Giphogo (Kipoko) Mask
TYPE: helmet mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Democratic Republic of the Congo
ETHNICITY: Eastern Pende
DESCRIPTION: Giphogo (Kipoko) Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Mukanda Ritual
FUNCTION: Adult Initiation; Protection; Purification; Social Control; Spirit Invocation; Status
AGE: ca. 1980s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: cloth; string; pigment

The Pende people have many different kinds of masks they wear, especially at adult initiation rituals and funerals. The word giphogo (or kipoko) means “sword wielder” and is a symbol of power among the Eastern Pende. The mask is kept in the chief’s home, and only chiefs are allowed to authorize dance with this type of mask on the occasion of initiations and rituals of the ancestor cult of the Eastern Pende. It represent the village chief as intermediary between the living and the dead, and its uses include protection from evil spirits; prayers or thanks for successful harvests and tribal fertility; to identify and punish sorcerers; and adult initiation during mukanda rituals. As he dances, the kipoko dancer makes semicircular kicks to protect the village against evil spirits or sorcerers and to purify their illnesses.

The masquerader carries one or two flywhisks made of animal hair, which are used to mimic agricultural work or to purify the village grounds.

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TITLE: Kuba Face Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Democratic Republic of Congo
ETHNICITY: Kuba
DESCRIPTION: Face Mask of Unknown Type
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Entertainment; Funeral; Status
AGE: ca. 1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: copper sheet; burlap; cowrie shells; plant fiber; feathers; hardware; string; pigment

The Kuba people inhabit the area south of the Kasai River.  Although the Kuba have some two dozen mask types, those still in use today are mostly the three royal masks, whose use is reserved to those given permission by the quasi-divine king (nyimi). These are danced mainly as a form of entertainment reinforcing the status of the royalty and at chiefly funerals.  The adult initiation (mukanda) masks are now rarely used in Kuba society. This specific mask is of an unknown type.

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TITLE: Kwele Helmet Mask
TYPE: helmet mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Gabon
ETHNICITY: Kwele
DESCRIPTION: Ekuk Helmet Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Be’ete Society
AGE: ca. 1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: kaolin clay; pigment; raffia fiber

The Kwele, also known as Kwese, people of Gabon and the Democratic Republic of Congo now live between the Dja and Ivindo rivers. Social control is exercised by the Be’ete Secret Society, which uses masks to adult initiation rituals, funerals, and protection of the village from malicious spirits.  The masks embody protective bush spirits, with the antelope a dominant presence among them.  Kaolin clay is nearly always used in Kwele masks, because its white color has spiritual meaning to the Kwele.

This specific mask represents an ekuk, or forest spirit, of a lion.

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TITLE: Devil Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Queretaro
ETHNICITY: Otomí
DESCRIPTION: Diablo (Devil) Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Semana Santa (Holy Week)
AGE: 1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: hardware; goat horns; oil-based paint

During Semana Santa (Holy Week) in the small mountain town of El Doctor, Queretaro, townspeople reenact the Passion of Jesus Christ in a unique manner. Participants wear stiff cloth animal masks, known as fariseos (Pharisees) or judios (Jews) and persecute a person who portrays the torture and crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth. The fariseos make jokes and mock Jesus, but in the end are converted to Christianity when Jesus is portrayed as resurrected.  Fariseos tend to resemble animals, implying that the Pharisees are bestial.  This specific mask represents a devil (diablo), who encourages the fariseos.

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TITLE: Seri (Comcaac) Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Sonora
ETHNICITY: Seri (Comcáac)
DESCRIPTION: Shamanic Mask
MAKER: Unknown maker in Bahia de Kino
CEREMONY: Shamanic Rituals
FUNCTION: healing (?)
AGE: 1980s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: paint; animal bones; adhesive; string

The Seri people of Sonora, Mexico call themselves Comcáac. They live primarily on Shark Island (Isla Tiburón) in the Gulf of California, and the adjacent mainland of Sonora (Punta Chueca and El Desemboque). Despite invasive Spanish colonialism and periodic Mexican assimilation movements, they have maintained their traditions even today. Traditionally, they lived as preliterate hunter-gatherer bands of fifty individuals or fewer, with no tribal organization. They primarily engage in commercial fishing today.

Like many indigenous groups in the region, the Seri engaged in face painting and had shamans who played important roles in healing the sick and protecting the people. Very little is known of their masking traditions, but they were reported by R.W.H. Hardy in the early nineteenth century to have worn deer and mountain lion masks on some occasions, and to have carved wooden masks.  This specific mask may have been made by a shaman for use in healing the sick, and would have been worn with a fringe of ixtle fiber.

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TITLE: Korkobi Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Michoacán (Charapán)
ETHNICITY: Purépecha
DESCRIPTION: Korkobi (Corcoví) Mask
MAKER: Victoriano Salgado Morales (1920-2012, Uruapan)
CEREMONY: Danza de los Viejitos
AGE: 1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: maque; plaster

The Korkobi mask (also written in many variations, such as Corcoví and Corcobi) represents a nocturnal bird, which in Purépecha beliefs is considered a sign of ill omen, because its song announces death.  However, the character also represents the sun. The Korkobi dances in the Christmas Eve Danza de los Viejitos (Dance of the Little Old Men) and is primarily used in the small town of Charapán.

In this dance, a female character (Maringuía) represents the moon, the Korkobi represents the sun, the tecolote (owl) the night, and the viejitos (old men) represent the stars dancing for the amusement of the Holy Child.

All the characters in the dance try to get the attention of the Maringuía with shouts and compliments but it is the Korkobi alone who succeeds in courting her.

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TITLE: Huacón Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Peru
SUBREGION: Mito
ETHNICITY: Quechua
DESCRIPTION: Huacón Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Baile de la Huaconada
AGE: 1960s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: pigment

The Huaconada is a dance performed in the town of Mito, Concepción Province, in Peru. The dance is performed during the first three days of January.  The huacones wear wood masks replicating an old face, nearly always with a twisted mouth, and wear either of two types of costumes, traditional or modern. The huacones represent traditional village elders and, during the dancing days, they act as the highest political authority of Mito.  They carry whips (tronadores) to symbolize their political power.  The dance is accompanied by a small orchestra with an Andean drum known as tinya. Masks and costumes are passed down through the generations to those considered meritorious.

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TITLE: Huniyam Yakka Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Asia
COUNTRY: Sri Lanka
ETHNICITY: Sinhalese
DESCRIPTION: Huniyam Yakka (Prince of Black Sorcery) Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Kolam Natima Dance Drama
AGE: 1950s
MAIN MATERIAL: kadura (Strychox nux vomica) wood
OTHER MATERIALS: paint; dyed cotton cloth

The masked dance of Sri Lanka developed from shamanic healing and purification rituals, and  split along two lines.  The first, Yakun Natima, is the healing dance performed by a shaman.  Each demon (yakku) represents a specific disease or ailment, and to invoke the demon, the shaman wears a mask depicting the symptoms or symbols of the disease. When performing as a group, a character known as Kola Sanni Yakka, who is a kind of amalgamation of all diseases, presides over the demons.

The second line, Kolam Natima is a storytelling dance drama involving 40 masked characters of very diverse types. The story originates in a myth of a pregnant Sinhalese queen who develops a craving to see masked dances. She begs her husband, the king, to arrange it, but he knows of no such dances. At his request, the god Sekkria, one of the four guardian gods, carves the masks and teaches the people how to perform the dance. They perform for the royal audience, and the baby is consequently born strong and healthy. The stories told with the masks are not a single cohesive narrative, but a series of stories that merge Sinhalese folk traditions with Buddhist Jataka stories, which tell of the former lives of the Buddha.

A Kolam Natima performance begins with ritual addresses to gods and the Buddha. What follows is a prologue showing brief stock, mostly comical, scenes from traditional Sri Lankan society.  Finally, the king and the queen in very large masks enter with their retinue, whence they watch the dance.  The performance ends with the dance, typically involving Gara demons, Nagas (snake demons) and the Garuda (a Naga-eating god-bird) who were eventually reconciled by the Buddha. The performance is intended to purify the village and to spread prosperity.

This mask probably represents Huniyam Yakka, the prince of black sorcery, from the Kolam Natima.

For more on the masks of Sri Lanka, see Alain Loviconi, Masks and Exorcisms of Sri Lanka (Paris: Éditions Errance, 1981).

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TITLE: Tiv Mami Wata Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Nigeria
ETHNICITY: Tiv
DESCRIPTION: Tiv Mami Wata Face Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Kwagh-hir
FUNCTION: Entertainment
AGE: ca. 1980s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: paint

The Tiv of Nigeria and Cameroon are a predominantly agrarian people that began adopting and transforming the masquerading traditions of neighboring peoples (including the Igbo and Yoruba) in the 1960s.  They now have an established masking tradition known as kwagh-hir (“wonderful thing”). Kwagh-hir is a form of communal entertainment in which masked characters portraying animals, people or supernatural spirits are used to tell stories.  It takes form either through wooden puppets or masked men.  Some masks are full body suits; others cover only the head or face.

Kwagh-hir are performed during the dry season in villages with sufficient resources.  Any man may take part under the instruction of a director (torkwagh-hir). The performance is announced by the blowing of a ram’s horn.  It is performed only at night, with women singing songs specifically for the masquerade. The first masked figure appears as a huge, raffia-covered animal that spins and dances, sweeping the stage area and raising a dust cloud. Masked spirits then follow individually.  One important spirit is the Mami Wata, represented here.  Mami Wata is a water goddess important to many northwest African cultures. She is sometimes represented by a mermaid but is nearly always surrounded by snakes, as here.

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TITLE: Lewa Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Oceania
COUNTRY: Papua New Guinea
SUBREGION: Schouten Islands
ETHNICITY: Melanesian (Austronesian)
DESCRIPTION: Lewa Mask
MAKER: Unknown maker on Vokeo Island
CEREMONY:
FUNCTION: Adult Initiation; Secret Society; Spirit Invocation
AGE: 1960s-1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: natural pigments

The Schouten Islands are a group of six small volcanic islands in the province of East Sepik in Papua New Guinea.  Male initiation ceremonies celebrate the passage of boys to adulthood and teach them the obligations and skills they will need to survive. This type of mask is know as a lewa and represents a male masked spirit. The carving from the ears to the nose likely represents facial decoration with bone or shell, suggesting the mask was linked to the son of a tribal elder or chief. The mask has also been decorated with a ochre and white clay. The lewa spirit enforces prohibitions against eating certain crops that enable ritual leaders to stockpile food to be used later during important ceremonies and festivals.

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