Tag: museums

Barely a bear

Barely a bear


Jukamari3 Jukumari, Musée du quai Branly, Paris. Photo by Alistair Gentry.

Final selection of bizarre, beautiful costumes from the Musée du quai Branly in Paris. The museum’s text:

The Andean “bespectacled” bear, the Jukumari, lives at different ecological levels of the Andean cordilera. For this reason he is seen as a mediator between different entities, god-like and human, or different human groups. He is present in several dances from the Andes in Bolivia, in particular the Diablada and the the Morenada. In the Diablada he has a playful role: he is the character that chats and interacts with the public. The Jukumari evolved into a polar bear.

No kidding. Other additions in the category of artistic license include the dainty yellow hanky (er… don’t look up hanky codes if you don’t know what they are already. You’re OK not knowing), the strings of pearls (stop it)…

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The giver of gifts

The giver of gifts


NaupaD02 Ñaupa Diablo, Musée du quai Branly, Paris. Photo by Alistair Gentry.

More excellent masks from the Musée du quai Branly in Paris… and these ones come with splendid matching outfits. In the previous post on this subject, there was an early twentieth century carnival mask from Oruro, Bolivia. This time I have some relatively modern masks and costumes from the same carnival for you. All the photographs are mine. Here’s a translation of the museum’s blurb:

Performed during the carnival in the mining town of Oruro, the Diablada dance fuses Catholic and indigenous beliefs, depicting Lucifer escorted by a legion of male and female demons, and the Archangel Michael as the leader of the angel host. The characters in the dance are derived from the Catholic religion’s struggle between good and evil, which ends in the victory of the angels. However, in this dance, the “devil” in all his…

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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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2,000,000 dots and 325 animals

2,000,000 dots and 325 animals


Poster for a sideshow type act at the Folies-Bergére, circa 1880s-1890s. Poster for a sideshow type act at the Folies-Bergère, circa 1880s.

Recently I was at the ethnographic Musée du quai Branly in Paris. A post about some of the museum’s permanent collection of lovely, demented and/or terrifying masks will follow shortly, but the museum also currently have an exhibition on (until the middle of October 2014) called Tatoueurs, Tatoués (Tattooers, Tattooed) which is worth seeing if only to be reminded that there can be more to tattoos than spelling error tramp stamps, nonsense kanji, the ubiquitous badly drawn pseudo-tribal sleeve, and permanent disfigurements that are just plain wrong.

The exhibition has modern examples and historical images from all over Asia, Europe and Oceania, but for some reason the image that stuck with me was the one shown above, of ‘Captain Costentenus’. Maybe it’s just my general prediliction for Victoriana. He was an attraction at the Folies-Bergère, the…

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