TITLE: Mixtec Marialencha Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Oaxaca
ETHNICITY: Mixtec
DESCRIPTION: Marialencha Mask
MAKER: Luís Morales Ortíz, San Miguel Tlacotepec (1974- )
CEREMONY: Danza de los Rubios
AGE: 2021
MAIN MATERIAL: avocado wood
OTHER MATERIALS: plastic eyes; adhesive; false eyelashes; acrylic paint

The Danza de los Rubios (Dance of the Blond Ones) 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 is performed in pairs to the music a violin and guitar and tells a story of cow herders (vaqueros) and their women, who dance in a double line. The male mask, the rubio, was probably originally intended to mock the Spaniards, with their blue eyes, mustaches, and squint at the harsh Mexican sun. Over time, the fun of ridiculing the disappearing Spaniards must have paled, and the characters came to represent the indigenous cow herders and their wives (called marialenchas). The marialencha wears a linen skirt, petticoat, a fancy shawl (rebozo), scarves, a wide-brimmed sombrero, and huaraches (leather sandals worn by native Mexicans).

Normally, masks of this region are made of sabino wood (Mexican cypress), but other woods (such as avocado, in this case) may substitute when the sabino is unavailable.

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TITLE: Chinelo Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Morelos
ETHNICITY: Nahua
DESCRIPTION: Chinelo Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Carnival
AGE: 1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: metal wire mesh
OTHER MATERIALS: metal strips; dyed ixtle fiber; oil-based paint

The Carnival of Morelos typically features the popular figure of fun, the chinelo, a Spanish version of the Nahuatl word zineloquie, or “disguised.” As occurred in many parts of Mexico, dances developed during Carnival as a means of expressing indigenous resentment of the European colonists.  In Morelos, the primary object of frustration was the sugar cane plantation, in which native labor was exploited while Spanish colonists enriched themselves. The chinelos represent a grotesque caricature of the invaders, with their fancy clothing, fair skin, elaborate facial hair, and arrogant mannerisms. Chinelo costumes are especially elaborate, often made to resemble velvet or satin, with bright and intricate designs in beads, sequins, fur, and feathers covering the robe and hat.  The dance of the chinelos, called the brincón (“hop”), is a series of repetitive, energetic hops to the fast-paced blare of drums, and of brass and woodwind instruments.

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TITLE: Monkey Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Ecuador
SUBREGION: Cotopaxi
ETHNICITY: Mestizo
DESCRIPTION: Mono (Monkey) Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Fiesta de la Mama Negra
AGE: ca. 1960s-1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: oil-based paint

The Fiesta de la Mama Negra (Festival of the Black Mama) is a celebration held in September and again in early November in Latacunga, Ecuador. The event originates in pre-colonial indigenous practices and was adapted to honor the Virgin of Mercy (Virgen de la Merced) after Catholic conversion, in thanks for her supposed  intervention to protect the population from eruptions from the nearby Cotopaxi volcano.  The festival has become one of the most important in Latacunga, and includes a parade (comparsa) featuring the Mama Negra prominently as an African version of Mary, mother of Jesus.

Other important masks include animals such as this dog, cats, or jaguars; the Rey Moro (King Moor, showing the influence of the Conquistadors); angels; clowns (payasos abanderados); and miscellaneous other characters. This festival opens with the huacos, representing precolonial Aymara shamans who parade to cure the diseases of the crowd. This mask represents a monkey, several species of which inhabit Ecuador, including the Mangled Howler Monkey, the Ecuadorian Capuchin, the Squirrel Monkey, the Black-Headed Spider Monkey, and the Brown-Mantled Tamarin.

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TITLE: Viejito Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Michoacan
ETHNICITY: Purépecha
DESCRIPTION: Viejito (Little Old Man) Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Danza de los Viejitos
AGE: ca. 1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: plaster; maque; cotton thread; ixtle fiber; shoelaces

The Danza de los Viejitos is one of the oldest ceremonies in the Purépecha regions of Michoacán. In it, four dancers dressed as old men, with white suits, a colorful sarape, beribboned straw hat, wooden clogs, and a wooden cane, dance to the music of violins, clarinets, and guitars. The purpose of the dance is to pray for a good harvest. Normally, four dancers appear, representing the four primordial elements (earth, fire, water, and air) and the four colors of maize (yellow, red, blue, white). Masks may be made of wood, paste, or terra cotta.

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TITLE: Captain (?) Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Ecuador
SUBREGION: Cotopaxi
ETHNICITY: Mestizo
DESCRIPTION: Unknown mask, probably representing the Capitán (Captain)
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Fiesta de la Mama Negra
AGE: ca. 1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: oil-based paint

The Fiesta de la Mama Negra (Festival of the Black Mama) is a celebration held in September and again in early November in Latacunga, Ecuador. The event originates in pre-colonial indigenous practices and was adapted to honor the Virgin of Mercy (Virgen de la Merced) after Catholic conversion, in thanks for her supposed  intervention to protect the population from eruptions from the nearby Cotopaxi volcano.  The festival has become one of the most important in Latacunga, and includes a parade (comparsa) featuring the Mama Negra prominently as an African version of Mary, mother of Jesus.

Other important masks include animals such as this dog, cats, or jaguars; the Rey Moro (King Moor, showing the influence of the Conquistadors); angels; clowns (payasos abanderados); and miscellaneous other characters. This festival opens with the huacos, representing precolonial Aymara shamans who parade to cure the diseases of the crowd. This mask probably represents the Captain (capitán), the Spanish viceroy appointed by the King of Spain. He leads a parade with an unsheathed sword, dancing comically to the rhythm of a band.

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TITLE: Chilolo Pilato Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Oaxaca
ETHNICITY: Mixtec
DESCRIPTION: Pilato Mask
MAKER: Luís Morales Ortíz, San Miguel Tlacotepec (1974- )
CEREMONY: Carnival (Danza de los Chilolos)
AGE: 2021
MAIN MATERIAL: avocado wood
OTHER MATERIALS: acrylic paint

The Danza de los Chilolos is performed by the Mixtec people of Juxtlahuaca district and surrounding towns during Carnival or on special occasions, such as the inauguration of a church. The word “chilolo” is a Spanish version of the Mixtec term Lolo Nchicaa, meaning Ritual of the Jaguar. As the name suggests, this dance originates before the Spanish invasion and is one of the oldest still danced in Oaxaca.

It is based on a legend of a great chief of Yosocuia who had amassed a large fortune, but who decided the leave the village in the care of his sons. He went to Tututepec, married a noblewoman, and started a new family, but he longed for his old kingdom. His wife wished him to remain and, on the advice of a priest, sought the help of a mystical creature, the Nahual. The Nahual transformed itself into a jaguar and slaughtered all the cattle of the chief’s sons, so that when he arrived back in Yosocuia, he saw nothing but poverty. He decides to hunt the jaguar, taking with him his best guerreros del sol (Warriors of the Sun), also called Pilatos, who wear this mask. The chief is represented by a character known as Santiaguito.

The Danza de los Chilolos is accompanied by a small orchestra of a Mixtec small, square drum and stick (tamborcito) made from goat hide, and a simple reed flute. The chilolos perform choreographed steps, wearing elaborate costumes and colorful feathered crowns made of wood and adorned with mirrors. They wear bells on their boots that shake as they dance, and carry a sword in one hand and a flag in the other. Much of the symbolism of the dance relates to Catholicism, because Spanish missionaries did not tolerate pre-Christian traditions and compelled the Mixtecs to corrupt their culture with Catholic doctrines.

Normally, masks of this region are made of sabino wood (Mexican cypress), but other woods (such as avocado, in this case) may substitute when the sabino is unavailable.

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TITLE: Mixtec Rubio Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Oaxaca
ETHNICITY: Mixtec
DESCRIPTION: Rubio (Blond One) Mask
MAKER: Luís Morales Ortíz, San Miguel Tlacotepec (1974- )
CEREMONY: Danza de los Rubios
AGE: 2021
MAIN MATERIAL: avocado wood
OTHER MATERIALS: plastic eyes; adhesive; false eyelashes; acrylic paint

The Danza de los Rubios (Dance of the Blond Ones) 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 is performed in pairs to the music a violin and guitar and tells a story of cow herders (vaqueros) and their women, who dance in a double line. The male mask, the rubio, was probably originally intended to mock the Spaniards, with their blue eyes, mustaches, and squint at the harsh Mexican sun. Over time, the fun of ridiculing the disappearing Spaniards must have paled, and the characters came to represent the indigenous cow herders and their wives (called marialenchas).

Normally, masks of this region are made of sabino wood (Mexican cypress), but other woods (such as avocado, in this case) may substitute when the sabino is unavailable.

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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).

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TITLE: Yaka Kholuka
TYPE: helmet mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Congo, Dem. Rep. of
ETHNICITY: Yaka
DESCRIPTION: Kholuka Makunda Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Makunda
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 Nkhaanda, 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).

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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.

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