Tag: ethnography

Hiding in public, part three


Easy, tiger

Final selection from the book Masks: Masterpieces from the musée du quai Branly. I apologise for the Devil Son mask I showed you last time. Hopefully you’ve recovered now. How about a sort-of cute tiger?

MexicoTiger Lacquered wood mask of a tiger, State of Guerrero, Mexico, circa 1970.

This mask was made using the rayado technique. Two layers of lacquer are superimposed, then one is partially removed to produce this two-tone effect. If you look closely you’ll see that the markings aren’t random; they form the shapes of birds, rabbits, deer and other animals.

BoliviaMoreno Plaster and cloth moreno mask from Oruro, Bolivia, early 20th century.

Moreno masks represent the exhausted, sickly African slaves who worked in the plantations and mines of Bolivia. They’re worn during the mining city of Oruro’s carnival. The masks, I mean. Not Africans.

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Hiding in public, part two


“You’re my wife now”

Some of the more unnerving examples from the book Masks: Masterpieces from the musée du quai Branly. (previous post here)

NepalMask Wooden mask, carved by a shaman in Nepal. The original caption says it verges on abstraction, but it also verges on bloody terrifying.

JavaKlana Wooden mask from Java, 19th century. This fellow is probably Klana Sewandana, the hero’s rival in wayang topeng plays.

MexicoDevilSon O hai, it’s only me, the Devil’s son. Just carry on. I’m made of cloth, goat hair and somebody’s teeth. I come from Mexico.

GreenlandMask Ammassalimiut (Greenland) fur mask for a child, associated with Christian Epiphany celebrations. Because nothing says “Jesus” more than hideous slit mouths and inky black eyes, obviously. 1920s-1930s.

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Hiding in public, part one


Japanese Noh masks

Obeshimi (demon mask), wood, Japan, mid 19th century. Obeshimi (demon mask), wood, Japan, mid 19th century.

A few months ago I visited the very inspiring Musée du quai Branly in Paris. I recommend it to anybody who is interested in anthropology or ethnography. Or disconcerting masks and dolls, because they have tons of those. They’ve published a great book called Masks: Masterpieces from the musée du quai Branly. The text is by the splendidly named Yves Le Fur, with photos by Sandrine Expilly. I’m going to reproduce a few scans, but the book is worth a look if– as mentioned previously– you’re one of those creepy mask people like me. I’ll also be sharing some of my own photos from the collection. All the ones by me will be clearly marked, otherwise credit goes to Expilly.

This time I’m concentrating on Noh (能) masks from Japan. Noh is the extremely formalised theatre that originated…

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