Crosscurrents, Theories, and Stylistic Origins
The stylistic origins of individual masks are as impossible to ascertain as are the origins of individual styles in other forms of art.
Crosscurrents abound from one continent to another; we may, for instance, find similarities between ancient cultural motifs of Asia and those in the Americas.
Over the millennia, motifs, styles, and cultures from Africa and the Near East have contributed much to art and design, including the creation of masks in most regions of Asia, Oceania, the Pacific Islands, and eventually to the regions bordering the Pacific Ocean. Diffusion from Europe into the cultures of the Americas and eventually to Asia and Pacific regions occurred much later in history.
The “global village” culture noted by Canadian philosopher Marshall McLuhan envisioned today’s “Internet culture,” constantly diffusing, linking, and connecting (cross culturally) individuals and communities via television, the computer, and new forms of electronic technology and social media.
Earliest people arrived from Asia by foot across the land and ice of the Bering Strait. Others arrived from Asia to the Americas by sea from Oceania/South Pacific and other Pacific regions.
The Bering Strait between Alaska and Siberia provided an island-ice link between Asia and North America. This link across the Pacific maps the origins of earliest peoples in the Americas.
Siberian Rock paintings dated 3,000 BC display a remarkable resemblance to Chinese theatre masks. Whether the few known examples of death masks from north China belong to an equally ancient archeological level must remain an open question.
In addition to influences from within one region of Asia to another, such as Siberian cave paintings and Chinese opera masks, cultural diffusion across the cultures of the Pacific Islands is apparent. Cross-cultural influences over the centuries continue in the creation of tribal mask designs throughout Asia and Pacific regions and other parts of the world.
In recent years, some argue that art from Oceania/South Pacific influenced early Pacific Northwestern and South American visual cultures. Influences result, in most cases, from contact between cultures. According to the theories of noted psychologist, Carl Gustav Jung, creation-invention of art around the world may be synchronous (existing or occurring at the same time), independent from influences elsewhere in the world. Jung suggested that dreams might be a source of art making.
Artists may create similar images without contact; creative images may be archetypal. Archetypes” “can be described as primal pattern (of action or behavior), primal forms, images, and energies that govern our creative lives.
Mask F: Tiger mask, polychrome, papier-mâché, collected Tokyo, Japan, 1984