Masks, Tradition and Commercialism
Curiosity of Masks
Ever since I was a kid I have been fascinated by masks. A mask can be the vessel used to step outside oneself and into another realm or characteristic. Some masks were created to celebrate the dead, others were created to call upon deities and the power they hold to help or to hurt. Masks are created and worn by many cultures on this planet.
In African culture creation of masks for ceremonial and ritual purposes were long ago taught by a father to his son. The artists of the masks held a very special status. The symbolism of the mask was taught to the person creating the mask. The knowledge of symbolism allowed the creator to put the energy of the symbolism into the mask. In most African cultures the person wearing the mask loses their identity and becomes the spirit represented by the mask. In the ritual or ceremony there is usually dance and music which helps call the spirit and causes the person to lose their identity and take on the identity of the spirit. Some ceremonies include weddings, funerals, and initiation rights. In African culture usually men such as chiefs, warriors, witch doctors or kings wore masks.
In Japanese culture archeological evidence supports masks have been used as long ago as 10,000 B.C. They were created and worn for ritual and performance. In Japanese culture masks represent people, heroes, devils, ghosts, animals and deities. Early masks were created out of clay or cloth. Masks were used for magic rituals, religion, shaman ceremonies, as well as funeral and talisman purposes. The Gigaku the oldest masks, were used in an ancient dance originating in Korea and being introduced in Japan in the 7th century. The dramas consisted of mimes and processions set to music to act out the performance. The masks carved with dramatic expressions covered the whole head, were made of wood, had hair pasted on them and represented lions, bird, demons or superhuman creatures. Bugaku masks worn in performances in traditional court music are made of cypress wood and only covered the performers face. The expressions are not as exaggerated.
Native Aboriginals of the United States created masks for medicinal, spiritual and entertainment purposes. It is believed masks that represent animals while worn during specific rituals, would cause the person wearing the mask to take on the characteristics of the animal. It is believed the spirit of the animal would enter the person wearing the mask. Masks were used by shamans, and warrior societies as well as by those to induct a younger person coming of age into the tribe. The rituals were sacred to the societies performing them and were for their eyes only. Shamans wore masks to represent or conjure creation or war. Potlatch is a ceremony celebrated by two or more tribes where the chiefs of the tribes would exchange gifts to show the wealth and generosity of the tribe. The tribes would exchange gifts and have a feast. Dances were performed to tell stories. The people performing the dance would wear the masks given by the chiefs to act out the stories. These ceremonies celebrated sharing and coming together. Tribes recognized and respected their differences and the strength of coming together.
Commercialism of these masks has become wide spread and has somewhat lessened the traditional meanings of these masks and the importance of them in culture. With many cultures becoming extinct for one reason or another we are lucky to know the uses of masks on this planet by aboriginal people for celebrations, funerals, calling of deities, war dances or simply entertainment. These ceremonies or rituals celebrated a simpler time where aboriginals co-existed with the Earth, called on the Earth, the gods, deities, and the animal spirits for help in creation, war, and celebration of those passed on. Many cultures across the planet used masks to celebrate many of the same beliefs in different ways. Hopefully these beautiful spiritual celebrations and traditions of co-existence never fade out. Commercialism can fade things and bury traditions simply because the person purchasing the mask likes how it looks and doesn't think to go any further into exploring or respecting where they came from. With that said, I'm going to do a lot more exploration myself. Thank you for reading.
Teotihuacan (AD 100-650) Mexico
- African Masks, African Statues, Antiques, Art, Crafts, Artwork, Fetishes, and Pottery from GenuineAf
African Masks and African Statues from GenuineAfrica.com. Also a large selection of African artwork, African wildlife paintings, textiles, and African tribal masks from the Ashanti, Marka, Salanpaso, Salampasu, Yoruba, Bambara, Sidamo, Bobo, Fanti, P
Masks of The World
- Masks from Around the World - About Us Page
On http:masksoftheworld.com you will find many masks and their meanings represented by many cultures.