Defining Mask: Asia and Pacific
The word “mask” is most often understood as a covering of the face. In addition to full masks, there are semi-masks or half-masks, full veils, face paint, and tattoos. Any objects or coverings worn on the head to conceal the face might be considered masks. Masks are used in sacred rituals, parades and other forms of religious, spiritual, and holiday celebrations. Masks may be used for secular purposes in masquerades or for utilitarian purposes.
The three main streams of masks include:
(1) “ancestor” and “tradition” in Africa and Melanesia;
(2) “spirit helpers” — shamanistic concept
(3) highly stylized “theatre” mask evolving from the original ancestor mask in Java, Bali,
Not all masks have sacred connotations. Secular or utilitarian masks—include sports masks; welder’s, diver’s, burglar’s masks, medical masks, beauty masks, and theatrical masks.
Made by a West Coast custom knife maker, these knife blades are made in the Haida style and are uniquely suited to working softwoods with a trailing skew that cuts a superb finish without fiber tearing or crushing.
Collected from “folk” on streets, in market places, small shops, and from art galleries and collectors, most all of the masks in this exhibition have been used over the years in festivals and special celebrations.
Certain masks in the collection date from the late 1800s, with the majority created from the mid-1900s and onward. The masks were collected in Northern and Southeastern Asia, Oceania, and in the Americas (North, Central, and South) bordering the Pacific Ocean.
In British Columbia a renaissance of art and ritual occurring in Northwest Coast Aboriginal communities continues age-old carving traditions that inspire people around the globe.
This ritual dance is performed before the start of Tibetan Opera. The dance is meant to purify the state on which the opera will be performed. The masked characters are called Ngonpas or hunters and they represent the deity Vajrapani-. The girls, wearing five paneled crowns with large rosettes at the ears represent Dakinis or celestial beings. At the end of the dance, everyone on stage tosses handfuls of tsampa, the grounded roasted barley in air to appease the Bodhisattvas and deities for a peace and prosperity of all sentient beings.
Lucha Libre! Masked Mexican Wrestlers is a spectacular selection of photographs, films, and artifacts from Mexico City that provide a journey through the real and imaginary world of the Mexican lucha libre (free form) wrestling scene.
The Kwakiutl (Kwakwaka’wakw)are a people of the Pacific Northwest.
Chief James Siwid(Seaweed) was featured in this clip from “New Indians”.