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A mask is an object normally worn on the
face The face is the front of an animal's head that features the eyes Eyes are organs An organ is a group of tissues with similar functions. Plant life and animal life rely on many organs that co-exist in organ systems. A given organ's tis ...

face
, typically for
protection File:CDCA auto repair notice.jpg, Consumer protection laws often mandate the posting of informative notices, such as this one which appears in all Auto mechanic, automotive repair shops in California. Protection is any measure taken to guard ...

protection
,
disguise A disguise can be anything which conceals or changes a person's physical appearance Human physical appearance is the outward phenotype right , Here the relation between genotype and phenotype is illustrated, using a Punnett square, for ...
,
performance A performance is an act of staging or presenting a play, concert, or other form of entertainment. It is also defined as the action or process of carrying out or accomplishing an action, task, or function. Management science In the work place, ...

performance
, or
entertainment Entertainment is a form of activity that holds the attention and interest In finance Finance is the study of financial institutions, financial markets and how they operate within the financial system. It is concerned with the creatio ...

entertainment
. Masks have been used since antiquity for both
ceremonial A ceremony (, ) is a unified ritual A ritual is a sequence of activities involving gestures, words, actions, or objects, performed in a sequestered place and according to a set sequence. Rituals may be prescribed by the traditions of a community ...

ceremonial
and
practical Pragmatism is a philosophical tradition that considers words and thought as tools and instruments for prediction, problem solving, and action, and rejects the idea that the function of thought is to describe, represent, or mirror reality. Pra ...
purposes, as well as in the
performing arts The performing arts are arts such as music, dance, and drama which are performed for an audience. It is different from visual arts The visual arts are art forms such as painting Painting is the practice of applying paint Paint is ...
and for entertainment. They are usually worn on the face, although they may also be positioned for effect elsewhere on the wearer's body. More generally in
art history
art history
, especially
sculpture ''lamassu 300px, ''Lamassu'' from Dur-Sharrukin. University of Chicago Oriental Institute. Syrian limestone Neo-Assyrian Period, c. 721–705 BCE ''Lama'', ''Lamma'' or ''Lamassu'' (Cuneiform: , ; Sumerian language, Sumerian: lammař; late ...

sculpture
, "mask" is the term for a face without a body that is not modelled in the round (which would make it a "head"), but for example appears in low
relief Relief is a sculptural technique where the sculpted elements remain attached to a solid background of the same material. The term ''wikt:relief, relief'' is from the Latin verb ''relevo'', to raise. To create a sculpture in relief is to give the ...
.


Etymology

The word "mask" appeared in English in the 1530s, from
Middle French Middle French (french: moyen français) is a historical division of the French language French ( or ) is a Romance language of the Indo-European family The Indo-European languages are a language family A language is a structured ...
''masque'' "covering to hide or guard the face", derived in turn from
Italian Italian may refer to: * Anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Italy ** Italians, an ethnic group or simply a citizen of the Italian Republic ** Italian language, a Romance language *** Regional Italian, regional variants of the ...

Italian
''maschera'', from
Medieval Latin Medieval Latin was the form of Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the p ...
''masca'' "mask, specter, nightmare". This word is of uncertain origin, perhaps from
Arabic Arabic (, ' or , ' or ) is a Semitic language The Semitic languages are a branch of the Afroasiatic language family originating in the Middle East The Middle East is a list of transcontinental countries, transcontinental region ...

Arabic
''maskharah'' مَسْخَرَۃٌ "buffoon", from the verb ''sakhira'' "to ridicule". However, it may also come from Provençal ''mascarar'' "to black (the face)" (or the related
Catalan Catalan may refer to: Catalonia From, or related to Catalonia: * Catalan language, a Romance language * Catalans, an ethnic group formed by the people from, or with origins in, Catalonia * Països Catalans, territories where Catalan is spoken * Ca ...
''mascarar'',
Old French Old French (, , ; Modern French French ( or ) is a Romance language of the Indo-European family. It descended from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire, as did all Romance languages. French evolved from Gallo-Romance, the Latin spok ...
''mascurer''). This in turn is of uncertain origin – perhaps from a Germanic source akin to English "mesh", but perhaps from ''mask-'' "black", a borrowing from a pre-Indo-European language. One German author claims the word "mask" is originally derived from the Spanish ''más que la cara'' (literally, "more than the face" or "added face"), which evolved to "máscara", while the Arabic "maskharat" – referring to the buffoonery which is possible only by disguising the face – would be based on these Spanish roots. Other related forms are
Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is regarded as the language of the Israelites, Judeans and their ancestors. It is the o ...
''masecha''= "mask"; Arabic ''maskhara'' مَسْخَرَ = "he ridiculed, he mocked", ''masakha'' مَسَخَ = "he transfomed" (
transitive Transitivity or transitive may refer to: Grammar * Transitivity (grammar), a property of verbs that relates to whether a verb can take direct objects * Transitive verb, a verb which takes an object * Transitive case, a grammatical case to mark arg ...
).


History

The use of masks in
ritual A ritual is a sequence of activities involving gestures, words, actions, or objects, performed according to a set sequence. Rituals may be prescribed by the traditions of a community, including a religious community. Rituals are characterized, ...

ritual
s or
ceremonies A ceremony (, ) is a unified ritual A ritual is a sequence of activities involving gestures, words, actions, or objects, performed in a sequestered place and according to a set sequence. Rituals may be prescribed by the traditions of a community ...
is a very ancient human practice across the world, although masks can also be worn for protection, in hunting, in sports, in feasts, or in wars – or simply used as ornamentation. Some ceremonial or decorative masks were not designed to be worn. Although the religious use of masks has waned, masks are used sometimes in drama therapy or psychotherapy. One of the challenges in
anthropology Anthropology is the of ity, concerned with , , , and , in both the present and past, including . studies patterns of behaviour, while studies cultural meaning, including norms and values. studies how language influences social life. studi ...
is finding the precise derivation of human culture and early activities, with the invention and use of the mask only one area of unsolved inquiry. The use of masks dates back several millennia. It is conjectured that the first masks may have generally been used by primitive people to associate the wearer with some kind of unimpeachable authority, such as "the gods" or to otherwise lend credence to the person's claim on a given social role. The oldest masks that have been discovered are 9,000 years old, being held by the
Musée "Bible et Terre Sainte" The Musée Bible et Terre Sainte (Bible and Holy Land Museum), also known as the Musée Biblique (Biblical Museum), is a small museum operated by the Institut Catholique de Paris The Institut Catholique de Paris (ICP), known in English as the Cath ...
(Paris), and the
Israel Museum The Israel Museum ( he, מוזיאון ישראל, ''Muze'on Yisrael'') is an art and archaeological museum in Jerusalem Jerusalem (; he, יְרוּשָׁלַיִם ; ar, القُدس, ', , (combining the Biblical and common usage Arabi ...

Israel Museum
(Jerusalem).This section is inserted in the article because academics and translators dealing with this topic typically give insufficient attention to the relevant technical meanings involved in archaeology, theatre and drama. Most probably the practice of masking is much older – the earliest known
anthropomorphic Anthropomorphism is the attribution of human Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most populous and widespread species of primates, characterized by bipedality, opposable thumbs, hairlessness, and intelligence allowing the use of culture, l ...
artwork is circa 30,000–40,000 years old.The oldest known example of the
Venus figurines A Venus figurine is any portraying a woman, usually carved in .Fagan, Brian M., Beck, Charlotte, "Venus Figurines", ''The Oxford Companion to Archaeology'', 1996, Oxford University Press, pp. 740–741 Most have been unearthed in , but others ...
is the
Venus of Hohle Fels The Venus of Hohle Fels (also known as the Venus of Schelklingen; in German variously ') is an Upper Paleolithic The Upper Paleolithic (or Upper Palaeolithic) also called the Late Stone Age The Later Stone Age (LSA) is a period in African pr ...
, carbon-dated as 35,000 to 40,000 years old.
However, insofar as it involved the use of war-paint, leather, vegetative material, or wooden masks, the masks probably have not been preserved; they are visible only in
paleolithic The Paleolithic or Palaeolithic or Palæolithic (), also called the Old Stone Age (from Greek wikt:παλαιός, palaios - old, lithos - stone), is a period in prehistory Prehistory, also known as pre-literary history, is the period of ...
cave drawings, of which dozens have been preserved.A famous example is the images of the Trois-Frères cave (circa 15,000 years old). According to John W. Nunley, "The earliest evidence of masking comes from the Mousterian site of Hortus in the south of France. There the archaeologist Henry de Lumley found remnants of a leopard skin that was probably worn as a costume more than 40,000 years ago" (Nunley, 1999, p. 22). At the
neanderthal Neanderthals (, also Neandertals, ''Homo neanderthalensis'' or ''Homo sapiens neanderthalensis'') are an extinct species In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, phys ...
Roche-Cotard site in France, a flintstone likeness of a face was found which is about 35,000 years old, but it is not clear that it was intended as a mask. In the Greek
bacchanalia The Bacchanalia (or Bacchanal / Carnival) were Roman festivals of Bacchus based on various religious ecstasy, ecstatic elements of the Greek Dionysia. They seem to have been popular and well-organised throughout the central and southern Italian pe ...
and the
Dionysus Dionysus (; grc-gre, Διόνυσος) is the god of the grape-harvest, winemaking, fertility, orchards and fruit, vegetation, insanity, ritual madness, religious ecstasy, festivity and theatre in Religion in ancient Greece, ancient Greek rel ...

Dionysus
cult, which involved the use of masks, the ordinary controls on behaviour were temporarily suspended, and people cavorted in merry revelry outside their ordinary rank or status.
René Guénon René-Jean-Marie-Joseph Guénon (15 November 1886 – 7 January 1951), also known as Abd al-Wahid Yahya, was a French author and intellectual who remains an influential figure in the domain of metaphysics having written on topics ranging from "sa ...
claims that in the Roman
saturnalia Saturnalia is an ancient Roman festival and holiday in honour of the god Saturn Saturn is the sixth planet from the Sun and the second-largest in the Solar System, after Jupiter. It is a gas giant with an average radius of about nine an ...
festivals, the ordinary roles were often inverted. Sometimes a slave or a criminal was temporarily granted the insignia and status of royalty, only to be killed after the festival ended. The
Carnival of Venice The Carnival of Venice ( it, Carnevale di Venezia) is an annual festival held in Venice Venice ( ; it, Venezia ; vec, Venesia or ) is a city in northeastern Italy Italy ( it, Italia ), officially the Italian Republic ( it, Repubb ...

Carnival of Venice
, in which all are equal behind their masks, dates back to 1268 AD. The use of carnivalesque masks in the Jewish
Purim Purim (; Hebrew: ; , "Cleromancy, lots", from the word , , translated as 'lot' in the Book of Esther, perhaps related to Akkadian language, Akkadian , "stone, urn"; also called the Festival of Lots) is a Jewish holiday which commemorates the savi ...

Purim
festivities probably originated in the late 15th century, although some Jewish authors claim it has always been part of Judaic tradition. The North American
Iroquois The Iroquois ( or ) or Haudenosaunee (; "People of the Longhouse") are an indigenous Indigenous may refer to: *Indigenous peoples Indigenous peoples, also referred to as First people, Aboriginal people, Native people, or autochthonous pe ...

Iroquois
tribes used masks for healing purposes (see
False Face Society The False Face Society is probably the best known of the medicinal societies among the Iroquois The Iroquois ( or ) or Haudenosaunee (; "People of the Longhouse") are an indigenous confederacy in northeast North America. They were known du ...
). In the
Himalayas The Himalayas, or Himalaya (; Sanskrit Sanskrit (, attributively , ''saṃskṛta-'', nominalization, nominally , ''saṃskṛtam'') is a classical language of South Asia belonging to the Indo-Aryan languages, Indo-Aryan branch of the Ind ...

Himalayas
, masks functioned above all as mediators of supernatural forces. Yup'ik masks could be small finger masks, but also masks hung from the ceiling or carried by several people. Masks have been created with plastic surgery for mutilated soldiers. Masks in various forms – sacred, practical, or playful – have played a crucial historical role in the development of understandings about "what it means to be human", because they permit the imaginative experience of "what it is like" to be transformed into a different identity (or to affirm an existing social or spiritual identity). Not all cultures have known the use of masks, but most of them have.Pernet emphasizes that masks are not a wholly universal cultural phenomenon, raising the question why some cultures do not have a masking tradition.


Masks in performance

Throughout the world, masks are used for their expressive power as a feature of masked performance – both ritually and in various theatre traditions. The
ritual A ritual is a sequence of activities involving gestures, words, actions, or objects, performed according to a set sequence. Rituals may be prescribed by the traditions of a community, including a religious community. Rituals are characterized, ...

ritual
and
theatrical Theatre or theater is a collaborative form of performing art that uses live performers, usually actor, actors or actresses, to present the experience of a real or imagined event before a live audience in a specific place, often a stage. The pe ...

theatrical
definitions of mask usage frequently overlap and merge but still provide a useful basis for categorisation. The image of juxtaposed Comedy and Tragedy masks are widely used to represent the Performing Arts, and specifically
drama Drama is the specific Mode (literature), mode of fiction Mimesis, represented in performance: a Play (theatre), play, opera, mime, ballet, etc., performed in a theatre, or on Radio drama, radio or television.Elam (1980, 98). Considered as a ...

drama
. In many dramatic traditions including the
theatre of ancient Greece Ancient Greek theatre was a Theatre, theatrical culture that flourished in ancient Greece from 700 BC. The Polis, city-state of Classical Athens, Athens, which became a significant cultural, political, and religious place during this period, was i ...
, the classical
Noh is a major form of classical Japanese dance-drama Drama is the specific Mode (literature), mode of fiction Mimesis, represented in performance: a Play (theatre), play, opera, mime, ballet, etc., performed in a theatre, or on Radio dra ...

Noh
drama of Japan (14th century to present), the traditional
Lhamo Lhamo, or Ache Lhamo, is a classical secular theatre of Tibet Tibet (; ; ) is a region in covering much of the spanning about . It is the traditional homeland of the as well as some other ethnic groups such as , , , and s and ...
drama of
Tibet Tibet (; ; ) is a region in East Asia covering much of the Tibetan Plateau spanning about . It is the traditional homeland of the Tibetan people as well as some other ethnic groups such as Monpa people, Monpa, Tamang people, Tamang, Qia ...

Tibet
, Talchum in Korea, and the
Topeng dance
Topeng dance
of
Indonesia Indonesia ( ), officially the Republic of Indonesia ( id, Republik Indonesia, links=yes ), is a country in Southeast Asia Southeast Asia, also spelled South East Asia and South-East Asia, and also known as Southeastern Asia or SEA, is t ...

Indonesia
, masks were or are typically worn by all the performers, with several different types of mask used for different types of character. In Ancient Rome, the word ''
persona A persona (plural personae or personas), depending on the context, can refer to either the public image of one's personality, or the social role that one adopts, or a fictional character Character(s) may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and med ...

persona
'' meant 'a mask'; it also referred to an individual who had full
Roman citizenship Citizenship Citizenship is a relationship between an individual and a state to which the individual owes allegiance and in turn is entitled to its protection. Each state determines the conditions under which it will recognize persons as its ci ...
. A citizen could demonstrate his or her lineage through '' imagines'',
death mask A death mask is a likeness (typically in wax or plaster cast) of a person's face after their death, usually made by taking a cast or impression from the corpse. Death masks may be mementos of the dead, or be used for creation of portraits. It i ...
s of the ancestors. These were wax casts kept in a ''
lararium Lares ( , ; archaic , singular ''Lar'') were Tutelary deity#Ancient Rome, guardian deities in ancient Roman religion. Their origin is uncertain; they may have been hero-ancestors, guardians of the hearth, fields, boundaries, or fruitfulness, or ...

lararium
'', the family shrine. Rites of passage, such as initiation of young members of the family, or funerals, were carried out at the shrine under the watch of the ancestral masks. At funerals, professional actors would wear these masks to perform deeds of the lives of the ancestors, thus linking the role of mask as a ritual object and in theatre. Masks are a familiar and vivid element in many
folk Folk or Folks may refer to: Sociology *Nation *People * Folklore ** Folk art ** Folk dance ** Folk hero ** Folk music *** Folk metal *** Folk punk *** Folk rock *** British folk rock ** Folk religion * Folk taxonomy Arts, entertainment, and media ...
and traditional
pageants
pageants
,
ceremonies A ceremony (, ) is a unified ritual A ritual is a sequence of activities involving gestures, words, actions, or objects, performed in a sequestered place and according to a set sequence. Rituals may be prescribed by the traditions of a community ...
,
rituals A ritual is a sequence of activities involving gesture A gesture is a form of non-verbal communication or non-vocal communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share") is the act of developing Semantics, meaning ...

rituals
, and
festivals A festival is an event ordinarily celebrated by a community and centering on some characteristic aspect of that community and its religion or cultures. It is often marked as a local or national holiday, mela, or Muslim holidays, eid. A festival ...

festivals
, and are often of an ancient origin. The mask is normally a part of a costume that adorns the whole body and embodies a tradition important to the religious and/or social life of the
community A community is a social unit (a group of living things) with commonality such as Norm (social), norms, religion, values, Convention (norm), customs, or Identity (social science), identity. Communities may share a sense of place (geography), plac ...

community
as whole or a particular group within the community. Masks are used almost universally and maintain their power and mystery both for their wearers and their audience. The continued popularity of wearing masks at
carnival Carnival is a Western Christian 250px, St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, the largest church building in the world today. Western Christianity is one of two sub-divisions of Christianity Christianity is an Abrahamic religions, Abra ...
, and for children at parties and for festivals such as
Halloween Halloween or Hallowe'en (a contraction of "All Hallows' evening"), less commonly known as Allhalloween, All Hallows' Eve, or All Saints' Eve, is a celebration observed in many countries on 31 October, the eve of the Western Christian 250p ...

Halloween
are good examples. Nowadays these are usually mass-produced plastic masks, often associated with popular
films A film, also called a movie, motion picture or moving picture, is a work of visual art used to simulate experiences that communicate ideas, stories, perceptions, feelings, beauty, or atmosphere through the use of moving images. These imag ...
,
TV
TV
programmes, or
cartoon A cartoon is a type of illustration that is typically drawn, sometimes animated, in an unrealistic or semi-realistic style. The specific meaning has evolved over time, but the modern usage usually refers to either: an image or series of images ...

cartoon
characters – they are, however, reminders of the enduring power of pretence and play and the power and appeal of masks.


Ritual masks

Ritual masks occur throughout the world, and although they tend to share many characteristics, highly distinctive forms have developed. The function of the masks may be magical or religious; they may appear in rites of passage or as a make-up for a form of theatre. Equally masks may disguise a penitent or preside over important ceremonies; they may help mediate with spirits, or offer a protective role to the society who utilise their powers. Biologist Jeremy Griffith has suggested that ritual masks, as representations of the human face, are extremely revealing of the two fundamental aspects of the human psychological condition: firstly, the repression of a cooperative, instinctive self or soul; and secondly, the extremely angry state of the unjustly condemned conscious thinking egocentric intellect. In parts of
Australia Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a Sovereign state, sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australia (continent), Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous List of islands of Australia, sma ...

Australia
, giant
totem A totem (from oj, ᑑᑌᒼ, italics=no or ''doodem The Anishinaabe The Anishinaabe are a group of culturally related Indigenous peoples resident in what are now called Canada and the United States. They include the Odawa, Saulteaux, O ...

totem
masks cover the body.


Africa

There are a wide variety of masks used in Africa. In West Africa, masks are used in masquerades that form part of religious ceremonies enacted to communicate with spirits and ancestors. Examples are the masquerades of the
YorubaYoruba may refer to: * Yoruba people The Yoruba people () are a Sub-Saharan Africa Sub-Saharan Africa (commonly called Black Africa) is, geographically, the area of the continent of Africa that lies south of the Sahara. According to the Uni ...
,
Igbo Igbo may refer to: * Igbo people, an ethnic group of Nigeria * Igbo language, their language * anything related to Igboland, a cultural region in Nigeria See also

* Ibo (disambiguation) * Igbo mythology * Igbo music * Igbo art * * Igbo-Ukwu, ...

Igbo
, and
Edo Edo ( ja, , , "bay-entrance" or "estuary"), also Romanization of Japanese, romanized as Jedo, Yedo or Yeddo, is the geographical renaming, former name of Tokyo. Edo, formerly a ''jōkamachi'' (castle town) centered on Edo Castle located in Musas ...
cultures, including
Egungun Masquerades
Egungun Masquerades
and Northern Edo Masquerades. The masks are usually carved with an extraordinary skill and variety by artists who will usually have received their training as an apprentice to a master carver – frequently it is a tradition that has been passed down within a family through many generations. Such an artist holds a respected position in tribal society because of the work that he or she creates, embodying not only complex craft techniques but also spiritual/social and symbolic knowledge. African masks are also used in the Mas or Masquerade of the
Caribbean Carnival Caribbean Carnival is the term used in the English speaking world for a series of events throughout almost the whole year that take place in many of the Caribbean islands annually and worldwide. The Caribbean's carnivals have several common them ...
. Djolé (also known as Jolé or Yolé) is a mask-dance from Temine people in Sierra Leone. Males wear the mask, although it does depict a female. Many African masks represent animals. Some African tribes believe that the animal masks can help them communicate with the spirits who live in forests or open savannas. People of
Burkina Faso Burkina Faso (, ; ) is a landlocked country in West Africa that covers an area of around and is bordered by Mali to the northwest, Niger to the northeast, Benin to the southeast, Togo and Ghana to the south, and the Ivory Coast to the southwe ...

Burkina Faso
known as the Bwa and
Nuna Nuna is the name of a series of manned solar powered Solar energy is Solar irradiance, radiant light and heat from the Sun that is harnessed using a range of ever-evolving technologies such as solar heating, photovoltaics, solar thermal en ...
call to the spirit to stop destruction. The Dogon of
Mali Mali (; ), officially the Republic of Mali (french: République du Mali; bm, ߡߊߟߌ ߞߊ ߝߊߛߏߖߊߡߊߣߊ, Mali ka Fasojamana, ff, 𞤈𞤫𞤲𞥆𞤣𞤢𞥄𞤲𞤣𞤭 𞤃𞤢𞥄𞤤𞤭, Renndaandi Maali, ar, جمهورية م ...

Mali
have complex religions that also have animal masks. Their three main cults use seventy-eight different types of masks. Most of the ceremonies of the Dogon culture are secret, although the antelope dance is shown to non-Dogons. The antelope masks are rough rectangular boxes with several horns coming out of the top. The Dogons are expert agriculturists and the antelope symbolizes a hard-working farmer. Another culture that has a very rich agricultural tradition is the
Bamana Bambara or Bambarra may refer to: * Bambara people, an ethnic group, primarily in Mali ** Bambara language, their language, a Manding language ** Bamana Empire, a state that flourished in present-day Mali (1640s–1861) * Bambara (beetle), ''Bambara ...
people of Mali. The antelope (called
Chiwara
Chiwara
) is believed to have taught man the secrets of agriculture. Although the Dogons and Bamana people both believe the
antelope The term antelope is used to refer to many species of even-toed ruminant Ruminants (suborder In biological classification, the order ( la, wikt:ordo#Latin, ordo) is # a taxonomic rank used in the classification of organisms and recognized by ...

antelope
symbolises agriculture, they interpret elements the masks differently. To the Bamana people, swords represent the sprouting of grain. Masks may also indicate a culture's ideal of feminine beauty. The masks of Punu of
Gabon Gabon (; ), officially the Gabonese Republic (french: République gabonaise), is a country on the west coast of Central Africa Central Africa is a subregion of the Africa, African continent comprising various countries according to dif ...

Gabon
have highly arched eyebrows, almost almond-shaped eyes and a narrow chin. The raised strip running from both sides of the nose to the ears represent jewellery. Dark black hairstyle, tops the mask off. The whiteness of the face represent the whiteness and beauty of the spirit world. Only men wear the masks and perform the dances with high stilts despite the masks representing women. One of the most beautiful representations of female beauty is the
Idia Idia was the mother of Esigie Oba Esigie was an (king) of Benin who ruled the ancient , now , , (c.1504 – c.1550). At the time of his father 's death, Esigie controlled and his brother Arhuaran controlled Udo, a town about northwest of ...
's Mask of
Benin Benin ( , ; french: Bénin ), officially the Republic of Benin (french: République du Bénin) (formerly known as Dahomey The Kingdom of Dahomey () was a West African kingdom located within present-day Benin Benin ( , ; french: ...
in present-day Edo State of Nigeria. It is believed to have been commissioned by a king of Benin in memory of his mother. To honor his dead mother, the king wore the mask on his hip during special ceremonies. The
Senoufo The Senufo people, also known as Siena, Senefo, Sene, Senoufo, and Syénambélé, are a West Africa, West African ethnolinguistic group. They consist of diverse subgroups living in a region spanning the northern Ivory Coast, the southeastern Mali ...

Senoufo
people of the
Ivory Coast Ivory Coast, also known as Côte d'Ivoire, officially the Republic of Côte d'Ivoire, is a country located on the south coast of West Africa. Côte d'Ivoire's political capital is Yamoussoukro in the centre of the country, while its largest ...
represent tranquility by making masks with eyes half-shut and lines drawn near the mouth. The Temne of
Sierra Leone Sierra Leone (, also , ), officially the Republic of Sierra Leone, informally Salone, is a country on the southwest coast of West Africa West Africa or Western Africa is the westernmost region of . The defines Western Africa as the 17 co ...

Sierra Leone
use masks with small eyes and mouths to represent humility and humbleness. They represent wisdom by making bulging forehead. Other masks that have exaggerated long faces and broad foreheads symbolize the soberness of one's duty that comes with power. War masks are also popular. The Grebo of the Ivory Coast and Liberia carve masks with round eyes to represent alertness and anger, with the straight nose to represent unwillingness to retreat. Today, the qualities of
African art African art describes the modern and historical paintings, sculptures, installations, and other visual culture Visual culture is the aspect of culture Culture () is an umbrella term which encompasses the social behavior and Norm (social), ...
are beginning to be more understood and appreciated. However, most African masks are now being produced for the tourist trade. Although they often show skilled craftsmanship, they nearly always lack the spiritual character of the traditional tribal masks.


Oceania

The variety and beauty of the masks of
Melanesia Melanesia (, ) is a subregion A subregion is a part of a larger region In geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a field of science devoted to the study of the lands, features, inhabi ...

Melanesia
are almost as highly developed as in Africa. It is a culture where
ancestor worship The veneration Veneration in Noto St Conrad of Piacenza (San Corrado) Veneration ( la, veneratio; el, τιμάω ), or veneration of saints, is the act of honoring a saint In religious belief, a saint is a person who is recognized as havi ...
is dominant and religious ceremonies are devoted to ancestors. Inevitably, many of the mask types relate to use in these ceremonies and are linked with the activities of secret societies. The mask is regarded as an instrument of revelation, giving form to the sacred. This is often accomplished by linking the mask to an ancestral presence, and thus bringing the past into the present. As a culture of scattered islands and peninsulars, Melanesian mask forms have developed in a highly diversified fashion, with a great deal of variety in their construction and aesthetic. In Papua New Guinea, six-metre-high totem masks are placed to protect the living from spirits; whereas the '' duk-duk'' and ''tubuan'' masks of New Guinea are used to enforce social codes by intimidation. They are conical masks, made from cane and leaves.


North America

Arctic The Arctic ( or ) is a polar regions of Earth, polar region located at the northernmost part of Earth. The Arctic consists of the Arctic Ocean, adjacent seas, and parts of Alaska (United States), Canada, Finland, Greenland (Danish Realm, ...

Arctic
Coastal groups have tended towards simple religious practice but a highly evolved and rich mythology, especially concerning hunting. In some areas, annual
shamanic Shamanism is a religious practice that involves a practitioner who is believed to interact with a spirit world through altered states of consciousness, such as trance Trance is a state of semi-consciousness in which a person is not self-aw ...
ceremonies involved masked dances and these strongly abstracted masks are arguably the most striking artifacts produced in this region. Inuit groups vary widely and do not share a common mythology or language. Not surprisingly their mask traditions are also often different, although their masks are often made out of driftwood, animal skins, bones, and feathers. In some areas Inuit women use finger masks during storytelling and dancing.
Pacific Northwest The Pacific Northwest (PNW) is a geographic region in western North America bounded by its coastal waters of the Pacific Ocean to the west and, loosely, by the Rocky Mountains to the east. Though no official boundary exists, the most common co ...
Coastal indigenous groups were generally highly skilled
woodworkers Woodworking is the activity or skill of making items from wood, and includes cabinet making (cabinetry and furniture), wood carving, woodworking joints, joinery, carpentry, and woodturning. History Along with Rock (geology), stone, clay and ani ...
. Their masks were often master-pieces of carving, sometimes with movable jaws, or a mask within a mask, and parts moved by pulling cords. The carving of masks was an important feature of wood craft, along with many other features that often combined the utilitarian with the symbolic, such as
shield A shield is a piece of personal armour held in the hand, which may or may not be strapped to the wrist or forearm. Shields are used to intercept specific attacks, whether from melee weapon, close-ranged weaponry or projectiles such as arrows, ...

shield
s,
canoes A canoe is a lightweight narrow watercraft, vessel, typically pointed at both ends and open on top, propelled by one or more seated or kneeling paddlers facing the direction of travel and using a single-bladed paddle. In British English, the t ...

canoes
, poles, and houses. Woodland tribes, especially in the North-East and around the
Great Lakes The Great Lakes also called the Great Lakes of North America or the Laurentian Great Lakes, is a series of large interconnected freshwater lake A lake is an area filled with water, localized in a basin, surrounded by land Land ...

Great Lakes
, cross-fertilized culturally with one another. The
Iroquois The Iroquois ( or ) or Haudenosaunee (; "People of the Longhouse") are an indigenous Indigenous may refer to: *Indigenous peoples Indigenous peoples, also referred to as First people, Aboriginal people, Native people, or autochthonous pe ...

Iroquois
made spectacular wooden ‘ false face’ masks, used in healing ceremonies and carved from living trees. These masks appear in a great variety of shapes, depending on their precise function.
Pueblo In the Southwestern United States The Southwestern United States, also known as the American Southwest or simply the Southwest, is a geographic and cultural list of regions of the United States, region of the United States that generally inc ...

Pueblo
craftsmen produced impressive work for masked religious ritual, especially the
Hopi The Hopi are a Native Americans in the United States, Native American tribe who primarily live on the Hopi Reservation in northeastern Arizona. As of the United States Census, 2010, 2010 census, there are 19,338 Hopi in the United States. The Ho ...

Hopi
and
Zuni Zuni may refer to: Peoples and languages * Zuni people The Zuni ( zun, A:shiwi; formerly spelled ''Zuñi'') are Native American Native Americans may refer to: Ethnic groups * Indigenous peoples of the Americas, the pre-Columbian peoples of ...
. The ''
kachina A kachina (; also katchina, katcina, or katsina; Hopi language, Hopi: ''katsina'' , plural ''katsinim'' ) is a spirit being in the religious beliefs of the Pueblo peoples, Native Americans in the United States, Native American cultures located ...
s'', god/spirits, frequently take the form of highly distinctive and elaborate masks that are used in ritual dances. These are usually made of leather with appendages of fur, feathers or leaves. Some cover the face, some the whole head and are often highly abstracted forms.
Navajo The Navajo (; British English: Navaho; nv, Diné or ') are a Native American people Native Americans, also known as American Indians, First Americans, Indigenous Americans and #Terminology differences, other terms, are the Indigenous peop ...
masks appear to be inspired by the Pueblo prototypes. In more recent times, masking is a common feature of
Mardi Gras Mardi Gras (), or Fat Tuesday, refers to events of the Carnival Carnival is a Western Christian 250px, St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, the largest church building in the world today. Western Christianity is one of two sub-divi ...

Mardi Gras
traditions, most notably in
New Orleans New Orleans (,New Orleans
masquerade ball A masquerade ball (or ''bal masqué'') is an event in which many participants attend in costume Costume is the distinctive style of dress or cosmetic of an individual or group that reflects class, gender, profession, ethnicity, nationality, ...
s) are frequently worn by
krewe A krewe (pronounced "crew") is a social organization that puts on a parade or ball for the Carnival season. The term is best known for its association with Mardi Gras celebrations in Mardi Gras in New Orleans, New Orleans, but is also used in othe ...
members on Mardi Gras Day. Laws against concealing one's identity with a mask are suspended for the day.


Latin America

Distinctive styles of masks began to emerge in pre-Hispanic America about 1200BC, although there is evidence of far older mask forms. In the
Andes The Andes, Andes Mountains or Andean Mountains ( es, Cordillera de los Andes) are the List of mountain ranges#Mountain ranges by length, longest continental mountain range in the world, forming a continuous highland along the western edge of Sou ...

Andes
, masks were used to dress the faces of the dead. These were originally made of fabric, but later burial masks were sometimes made of beaten
copper Copper is a chemical element In chemistry, an element is a pure Chemical substance, substance consisting only of atoms that all have the same numbers of protons in their atomic nucleus, nuclei. Unlike chemical compounds, chemical elem ...

copper
or
gold Gold is a chemical element In chemistry, an element is a pure Chemical substance, substance consisting only of atoms that all have the same numbers of protons in their atomic nucleus, nuclei. Unlike chemical compounds, chemical elemen ...

gold
, and occasionally of
clay Clay is a type of fine-grained natural soil Surface-water- gley developed in glacial till, Northern Ireland.">Northern_Ireland.html" ;"title="glacial till, Northern Ireland">glacial till, Northern Ireland. Soil is a mixture of organic m ...

clay
. For the
Aztecs The Aztecs () were a Mesoamerican culture that flourished in central Mexico in the post-classic period from 1300 to 1521. The Aztec peoples included different Indigenous peoples of Mexico, ethnic groups of central Mexico, particularly those ...

Aztecs
, human skulls were prized as war
trophies A trophy is a tangible, durable reminder of a specific achievement, and serves as a recognition or evidence of merit. Trophies are often awarded for sports, sporting events, from youth sports to professional level athletics. In many sports medals ...

trophies
, and skull masks were not uncommon. Masks were also used as part of court entertainments, possibly combining political with religious significance. In post-colonial Latin America,
pre-Columbian In the history of the Americas, the pre-Columbian era spans from the original settlement of North and South America in the Upper Paleolithic The Upper Paleolithic (or Upper Palaeolithic) also called the is the third and last subdivision o ...
traditions merged with Christian rituals, and syncretic masquerades and ceremonies, such as All Souls/
Day of the Dead The Day of the Dead ( es, Día de Muertos or ''Día de los Muertos'') is a holiday traditionally celebrated on November 1 and 2, though other days, such as October 31 or November 6, may be included depending on the locality. It largely originat ...

Day of the Dead
developed, despite efforts of the Church to stamp out the indigenous traditions. Masks remain an important feature of popular carnivals and religious dances, such as . Mexico, in particular, retains a great deal of creativity in the production of masks, encouraged by collectors.
Wrestling Wrestling is a combat sport A combat sport, or fighting sport, is a competitive contact sport that usually involves one-on-one combat. In many combat sports, a contestant wins by scoring more points than the opponent or by disabling the oppon ...
matches, where it is common for the participants to wear masks, are very popular, and many of the wrestlers can be considered folk heroes. For instance, the popular wrestler
El Santo Rodolfo Guzmán Huerta (23 September 1917 – 5 February 1984), known profesionally as El Santo or in English language, English The Saint, was a Mexico, Mexican Lucha Libre, Luchador Wrestling mask, enmascarado (Spanish language, Spanish for mas ...

El Santo
continued wearing his mask after retirement, revealed his face briefly only in old age, and was buried wearing his silver mask.


Asia


China

In China, masks are thought to have originated in ancient religious ceremonies. Images of people wearing masks have been found in rock paintings along the
Yangtze The Yangtze or Yangzi ( or ) is the longest river in Asia, the third-longest in the world and the longest in the world to flow entirely within one country. It rises at Jari Hill in the Tanggula Mountains The Tanggula ( Chinese:  ...
. Later mask forms brings together myths and symbols from
shamanism Shamanism is a religious practice that involves a practitioner (shaman) interacting with what they believe to be a spirit world through Altered state of consciousness, altered states of consciousness, such as trance. The goal of this is usually ...

shamanism
and
Buddhism Buddhism (, ) is the world's fourth-largest religion Religion is a social Social organisms, including humans, live collectively in interacting populations. This interaction is considered social whether they are aware of it or not, and ...

Buddhism
. ''Shigong'' dance masks were used in shamanic rituals to thank the gods, while ''nuo'' dance masks protected from bad spirits. Wedding masks were used to pray for good luck and a lasting marriage, and "Swallowing Animal" masks were associated with protecting the home and symbolised the "swallowing" of disaster. Opera masks were used in a basic "common" form of opera performed without a stage or backdrops. These led to colourful facial patterns that we see in today's
Peking opera Peking opera, or Beijing opera (), is the most dominant form of Chinese opera Traditional Chinese opera (), or ''Xiqu'', is a form of musical theatre in China with roots going back to the early periods in China. It is an amalgamation of var ...
.


India/Sri Lanka/Indo-China

Masked characters, usually divinities, are a central feature of Indian dramatic forms, many based on depicting the epics
Mahabharata The ''Mahābhārata'' (; sa, महाभारतम्, ', ) is one of the two major Sanskrit Sanskrit (; attributively , ; nominalization, nominally , , ) is a classical language of South Asia that belongs to the Indo-Aryan langua ...

Mahabharata
and
Ramayana ''Rāmāyana'' (; sa, रामायणम्, ) is one of the two major Sanskrit literature, Sanskrit Indian epic poetry, epics of ancient India and important text of Hinduism, the other being the ''Mahabharata, Mahābhārata''. The epi ...

Ramayana
. Countries that have had strong Indian cultural influences –
Cambodia Cambodia (; also Kampuchea ; km, កម្ពុជា, ), officially the Kingdom of Cambodia, is a country located in the southern portion of the Indochinese peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is in area, bordered by Thailand to Cambodia–T ...

Cambodia
,
Burma Myanmar (; my, မြန်မာ ) or Burma ( my, ဗမာ ), officially the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, is a country in Southeast Asia. Myanmar is bordered by Bangladesh and India to its northwest, China to its northeast, Laos a ...

Burma
,
Indonesia Indonesia ( ), officially the Republic of Indonesia ( id, Republik Indonesia, links=yes ), is a country in Southeast Asia Southeast Asia, also spelled South East Asia and South-East Asia, and also known as Southeastern Asia or SEA, is t ...

Indonesia
,
Thailand Thailand ( th, ประเทศไทย), historically known as Siam, () officially the Kingdom of Thailand, is a country in Southeast Asia. It is located at the centre of the Mainland Southeast Asia, Indochinese Peninsula, spanning , wi ...

Thailand
, and Lao – have developed the Indian forms, combined with local myths, and developed their own characteristic styles. The masks are usually highly exaggerated and formalised, and share an aesthetic with the carved images of monstrous heads that dominate the facades of
Hindu Hindus (; ) are persons who regard themselves as culturally, ethnically, or religiously adhering to aspects of Hinduism Hinduism () is an Indian religion Indian religions, sometimes also termed Dharmic religions or Indic re ...

Hindu
and
Buddhist Buddhism (, ) is the world's fourth-largest religion Religion is a social Social organisms, including humans, live collectively in interacting populations. This interaction is considered social whether they are aware of it or not, an ...

Buddhist
temples. These faces or ''Kirtimukhas'', 'Visages of Glory', are intended to ward off evil and are associated with the animal world as well as the divine. During ceremonies, these visages are given active form in the great mask dramas of the South and South-eastern Asian region.


Indonesia

In Indonesia, the mask dance predates Hindu-Buddhist influences. It is believed that the use of masks is related to the cult of the ancestors, which considered dancers the interpreters of the gods.
Native Indonesian Native Indonesians, also known as ''Pribumi'' (literally " first on the soil"), are Indonesians whose ancestral roots lie mainly in the archipelago, distinguished from Indonesians of known (partial) foreign descent, like Chinese Indonesians (T ...
tribes such as Dayak have masked Hudoq dance that represents nature spirits. In
Java Java ( id, Jawa, ; jv, ꦗꦮ; su, ) is one of the Greater Sunda Islands in Indonesia. It is bordered by the Indian Ocean to the south and the Java Sea to the north. With a population of 147.7 million people, Java is the world's List of ...

Java
and
Bali Bali () ( ban, ) is a province of Indonesia Indonesia ( ), officially the Republic of Indonesia ( id, Republik Indonesia, links=yes ), is a country in Southeast Asia Southeast Asia, also spelled South East Asia and South-East Asia ...

Bali
, masked dance is commonly called ''
topeng ''Topeng'' (Indonesian Indonesian is anything of, from, or related to Indonesia, an archipelagic country in Southeast Asia. It may refer to: * Indonesians, citizens of Indonesia ** Native Indonesians, diverse groups of local inhabitants of the ...

topeng
'' and demonstrated Hindu influences as it often feature epics such as ''
Ramayana ''Rāmāyana'' (; sa, रामायणम्, ) is one of the two major Sanskrit literature, Sanskrit Indian epic poetry, epics of ancient India and important text of Hinduism, the other being the ''Mahabharata, Mahābhārata''. The epi ...

Ramayana
'' and ''
Mahabharata The ''Mahābhārata'' (; sa, महाभारतम्, ', ) is one of the two major Sanskrit Sanskrit (; attributively , ; nominalization, nominally , , ) is a classical language of South Asia that belongs to the Indo-Aryan langua ...

Mahabharata
''. The native story of
Panji Panji may refer to: Geography * Panji District (潘集区), Huainan, Anhui, China ** Panji Town (潘集镇), a town in Panji District * Panji (subdistrict), Situbondo Regency, East Java, Indonesia * Way Panji, South Lampung Regency, Lampung, Ind ...
also popular in topeng masked dance. Indonesian topeng dance styles are widely distributed, such as topeng Bali, Cirebon, Betawi, Malang, Yogyakarta, and Solo.


Japan

Japanese masks are part of a very old and highly sophisticated and stylized theatrical tradition. Although the roots are in prehistoric myths and cults, they have developed into refined art forms. The oldest masks are the ''gigaku''. The form no longer exists, and was probably a type of dance presentation. The ''bugaku'' developed from this – a complex dance-drama that used masks with moveable jaws. The ''nō'' or
noh is a major form of classical Japanese dance-drama Drama is the specific Mode (literature), mode of fiction Mimesis, represented in performance: a Play (theatre), play, opera, mime, ballet, etc., performed in a theatre, or on Radio dra ...

noh
mask evolved from the gigaku and bugaku and are acted entirely by men. The masks are worn throughout very long performances and are consequently very light. The ''nō'' mask is the supreme achievement of Japanese mask-making. ''Nō'' masks represent gods, men, women, madmen and devils, and each category has many sub-divisions. ''
Kyōgen is a form of traditional Japan Japan ( ja, 日本, or , and formally ) is an island country An island country or an island nation is a country A country is a distinct territory, territorial body or political entity. It is of ...
'' are short farces with their own masks, and accompany the tragic nō plays.
Kabuki is a classical form of Japan Japan ( ja, 日本, or , and formally ) is an island country An island country or an island nation is a country A country is a distinct territory, territorial body or political entity. It is o ...

Kabuki
is the theatre of modern Japan, rooted in the older forms, but in this form masks are replaced by painted faces.


Korea

Korean masks have a long tradition associated with shamanism and later in ritual dance. Korean masks were used in war, on both soldiers and their horses; ceremonially, for burial rites in jade and bronze and for shamanistic ceremonies to drive away evil spirits; to remember the faces of great historical figures in death masks; and in the arts, particularly in ritual dances, courtly, and theatrical plays. The present uses are as miniature masks for tourist souvenirs, or on
mobile phone A mobile phone, cellular phone, cell phone, cellphone, handphone, or hand phone, sometimes shortened to simply mobile, cell or just phone, is a portable telephone A telephone is a telecommunication Telecommunication is the tra ...

mobile phone
s, where they hang as good-luck talismans.


Middle East

Theatre in the Middle East, as elsewhere, was initially of a ritual nature, dramatising man's relationship with nature, the gods, and other human beings. It grew out of sacred rites of myths and legends performed by priests and lay actors at fixed times and often in fixed locations. Folk theatre – mime, mask, puppetry, farce, juggling – had a ritual context in that it was performed at religious or rites of passage such as days of naming, circumcisions, and marriages. Over time, some of these contextual ritual enactments became divorced from their religious meaning and they were performed throughout the year. Some 2500 years ago, kings and commoners alike were entertained by dance and mime accompanied by music where the dancers often wore masks, a vestige of an earlier era when such dances were enacted as religious rites. According to George Goyan, this practice evoked that of Roman funeral rites where masked actor-dancers represented the deceased with motions and gestures mimicking those of the deceased while singing the praise of his life (see '' Masks in Performance'' above).


Europe

Masks are used throughout Europe, and are frequently integrated into regional folk celebrations and customs. Old masks are preserved and can be seen in museums and other collections, and much research has been undertaken into the historical origins of masks. Most probably represent Animism, nature spirits, and as a result many of the associated customs are seasonal. The original significance would have survived only until the introduction of Christianity which then incorporated many of the customs into its own traditions. In the process their meanings were also changed so, for example, old gods and goddesses were, literally, demonised and were viewed as mere devils, subjugated to the Abrahamic God. Many of the masks and characters used in European festivals belong to the contrasting categories of the 'good', or 'idealised beauty', set against the 'ugly' or 'beastly' and grotesque. This is particularly true of the Germanic and Central European festivals. Another common type is the Jester, Fool, sometimes considered to be the synthesis of the two contrasting type of Handsome and Ugly. The oldest representations of masks are animal masks, such as the cave paintings of Lascaux in the Dordogne in southern France. Such masks survive in the alpine regions of Austria and Switzerland, and may be connected with hunting or
shamanism Shamanism is a religious practice that involves a practitioner (shaman) interacting with what they believe to be a spirit world through Altered state of consciousness, altered states of consciousness, such as trance. The goal of this is usually ...

shamanism
, and tend to be particularly associated with the New Year and Carnival festivals. The debate about the meaning of these and other mask forms continues in Europe, where monsters, bears, wild man, wild men, harlequins, hobby horses, and other fanciful characters appear in carnivals throughout the continent. It is generally accepted that the masks, noise, colour and clamour are meant to drive away the forces of darkness and winter, and open the way for the spirits of light and the coming of spring. In Sardinia existed the tradition of ''Mamuthones e Issohadores'' of Mamoiada; ''Boes e Merdules'' of Ottana; ''Thurpos'' of Orotelli; ''S'Urtzu'', ''Su 'Omadore'' and ''Sos Mamutzones'' of Samugheo. Another tradition of European masks developed, more self-consciously, from court and civic events, or entertainments managed by guilds and co-fraternities. These grew out of the earlier revels and had become evident by the 15th century in places like Rome, and Venice, where they developed as entertainments to enliven towns and cities. Thus the Maundy Thursday carnival in St Marks Square in Venice, attended by the Doge and aristocracy also involved the guilds, including a guild of maskmakers. There is evidence of 'commedia dell'arte'-inspired Venetian masks and by the late 16th century the Venetian Carnival began to reach its peak and eventually lasted a whole 'season' from January until Lent. By the 18th century, it was already a tourist attraction, Goethe saying that he was ugly enough not to need a mask. The carnival was repressed during the Napoleonic Republic, although in the 1980s its costumes and the masks aping the C 18th heyday were revived. It appears other cities in central Europe were influenced by the Venetian model. During the Reformation, many of these carnival customs began to die out in Protestant regions, although they seem to have survived in Catholic areas despite the opposition of the ecclesiastical authorities. So by the 19th century, the carnivals of the relatively wealthy bourgeois town communities, with elaborate masques and costumes, existed side by side with the ragged and essentially folkloric customs of the rural areas. Although these civic masquerades and their masks may have retained elements drawn from popular culture, the survival of carnival in the 19th century was often a consequence of a self-conscious 'folklore' movement that accompanied the rise of nationalism in many European countries. Nowadays, during carnival in the Netherlands masks are often replaced with face paint for more comfort. In the beginning of the new century, on 19 August 2004, the Bulgarians, Bulgarian archeologist Georgi Kitov discovered a 673 g gold mask in the burial mound "Svetitsata" near Shipka (town), Shipka, Central Bulgaria. It is a very fine piece of workmanship made out of massive 23 Fineness#Karat, karat gold. Unlike other masks discovered in the Balkans (of which 3 are in Republic of Macedonia and two in Greece), it is now kept in the National Archaeological Museum (Bulgaria), National Archaeological Museum in Sofia. It is considered to be the mask of a Thracians, Thracian king, presumably Teres I, Teres.


Masks in theatre

Masks play a key part within world theatre traditions, particularly non-western theatre forms. They also continue to be a vital force within contemporary theatre, and their usage takes a variety of forms. In many cultural traditions, the masked performer is a central concept and is highly valued. In the western tradition, actors in Ancient Greek theatre wore masks, as they do in traditional Japanese
Noh is a major form of classical Japanese dance-drama Drama is the specific Mode (literature), mode of fiction Mimesis, represented in performance: a Play (theatre), play, opera, mime, ballet, etc., performed in a theatre, or on Radio dra ...

Noh
drama. In some Greek masks, the wide and open mouth of the mask contained a brass megaphone enabling the voice of the wearer to be projected into the large auditoria. In medieval Europe, masks were used in mystery and miracle plays to portray allegorical creatures, and the performer representing God frequently wore a
gold Gold is a chemical element In chemistry, an element is a pure Chemical substance, substance consisting only of atoms that all have the same numbers of protons in their atomic nucleus, nuclei. Unlike chemical compounds, chemical elemen ...

gold
or gilt mask. During the Renaissance, masques and ballet de cour developed – courtly masked entertainments that continued as part of ballet conventions until the late eighteenth century. The masked characters of the Commedia dell'arte included the ancestors of the modern clown. In contemporary western theatre, the mask is often used alongside puppetry to create a theatre which is essentially visual rather than verbal, and many of its practitioners have been visual artists. Masks are an important part of many theatre forms throughout world cultures, and their usage in theatre has often developed from, or continues to be part of old, highly sophisticated, stylized theatrical traditions.


Contemporary theatre

Masks and puppets were often incorporated into the theatre work of European avant-garde artists from the turn of the nineteenth century. Alfred Jarry, Pablo Picasso, Oskar Schlemmer, and other artists of the Bauhaus School, as well as surrealists and Dadaists, experimented with theatre forms and masks in their work. In the 20th century, many theatre practitioners, such as Meyerhold, Edward Gordon Craig, Jacques Copeau, and others in their lineage, attempted to move away from Naturalism. They turned to sources such as Oriental Theatre (particularly Japanese
Noh is a major form of classical Japanese dance-drama Drama is the specific Mode (literature), mode of fiction Mimesis, represented in performance: a Play (theatre), play, opera, mime, ballet, etc., performed in a theatre, or on Radio dra ...

Noh
theatre) and commedia dell'arte, both of which forms feature masks prominently. Edward Gordon Craig (1872–1966) in ''A Note on Masks'' (1910) proposed the virtues of using masks over the naturalism of the actor. Craig was highly influential, and his ideas were taken up by Brecht, Cocteau, Jean Genet, Genet, Eugene O'Neill – and later by John Arden, Arden, Grotowski, and Peter Brook, Brook and others who "attempted to restore a ritualistic if not actually religious significance to theatre". Copeau, in his attempts to "Naturalise" the actor decided to use mask to liberate them from their "excessive awkwardness". In turn, Copeau's work with masks was taken on by his students including Etienne Decroux and later, via Jean Daste, Jacques Lecoq. Lecoq, having worked as movement director at Teatro Piccalo in Italy, was influenced by the Commedia tradition. Lecoq met Amleto Satori, a sculptor, and they collaborated on reviving the techniques of making traditional leather Commedia masks. Later, developing Copeau's "noble mask", Lecoq would ask Satori to make him ''masques neutre'' (the neutral mask). For Lecoq, masks became an important training tool, the neutral mask being designed to facilitate a state of openness in the student-performers, moving gradually on to character and expressive masks, and finally to "the smallest mask in the world" the clown's red-nose. One highly important feature of Lecoq's use of mask, wasn't so much its visual impact on stage, but how it changed the performers movement on stage. It was a body-based approach to mask work, rather than a visually led one. Lecoq's pedagogy has been hugely influential for theatre practitioners in Europe working with mask and has been exported widely across the world. This work with masks also relates to L'École Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq#Laboratory of Movement (LEM), performing with portable structures and puppetry. Students of Lecoq have continued using masks in their work after leaving the school, such as in John Wright (theatre director), John Wright's ''Trestle Theatre''. In America, mask-work was slower to arrive, but the Guerrilla Theatre movement, typified by groups such as the San Francisco Mime Troupe and Bread and Puppet Theatre took advantage of it. Influenced by modern dance, modern mime, Commedia dell'arte and Brecht such groups took to the streets to perform highly political theatre. Peter Schumann, the founder of Bread and Puppet theatre, made particular use of German Carnival masks. Bread and Puppet inspired other practitioners around the world, many of whom used masks in their work. In the US and Canada, these companies include In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theater of Minneapolis; Arm-of-the Sea Theatre from New York State; Snake Theater from California; and Shadowland Theatre of Toronto, Ontario. These companies, and others, have a strong social agenda, and combine masks, music and puppetry to create a visual theatrical form. Another route masks took into American Theatre was via dancer/choreographers such as Mary Wigman, who had been using masks in dance and had emigrated to America to flee the Nazi Germany, Nazi regime. In Europe, Schumann's influence combined with the early avant-garde artists to encourage groups like Moving Picture Mime Show and Welfare State International, Welfare State (both in the UK). These companies had a big influence on the next generation of groups working in visual theatre, including IOU and Horse and Bamboo Theatre, who create a theatre in which masks are used along with puppets, film and other visual forms, with an emphasis on the narrative structure.


Functional masks

Masks are also familiar as pieces of kit associated with practical functions, usually protective. There has been a proliferation of such masks recently but there is a long history of protective armour and even medical masks to ward off plague. The contrast with performance masks is not always clear-cut. Ritual and theatrical masks themselves can be considered to be practical, and protective masks in a sports context in particular are often designed to enhance the appearance of the wearer.


Medical

Some masks are used for medical purposes: * Oxygen mask, a piece of medical equipment that assists breathing. * Anesthetic mask. * Burn mask, a piece of medical equipment that protects the burn tissue from contact with other surfaces, and minimises the risk of infection. * Surgical mask, a piece of medical equipment that helps to protect both the surgeon and patient from acquiring infection from each other. * Face shield, to protect a medical professional from bodily fluids. * Pocket mask or ''CPR mask'', used to safely deliver rescue breaths during a cardiac arrest or respiratory arrest.


Protective

Protective masks are pieces of kit or equipment worn on the head and face to afford protection to the wearer, and today usually have these functions: * Providing a supply of air or filtering the outside air (respirators and dust masks). * Protecting the face against flying objects or dangerous environments, while allowing vision. In Roman gladiatorial tournaments masks were sometimes used. From archaeological evidence it is clear that these were not only protective but also helped make the wearer appear more intimidating. In medieval Europe and in Japan soldiers and samurai wore similarly ferocious-looking protective armour, extending to face-masks. In the 16th century, the Visard was worn by women to protect from sunburn. Today this function is attributed to thin balaclavas. In sport the protective mask will often have a secondary function to make the wearer appear more impressive as a competitor. Before strong transparent materials such as polycarbonate were invented, visors to protect the face had to be opaque with small eyeslits, and were a sort of mask, as often in mediaeval suits of armour, and (for example) Old Norse ''grímr'' meant "mask or visor".


Disguise

Masks are sometimes used to avoid Recognition of human individuals, recognition. As a disguise the mask acts as a form of protection for the wearer who wishes to assume a role or task without being identified by others. * Robbers and other criminal perpetrators may wear masks as a means in concealing their faces and thus identities from their victims and from law enforcement. * Occasionally a witness for the prosecution appears in court in a mask to avoid being recognized by associates of the accused. * Participants in a black bloc at protests usually wear masks, often kerchief, bandannas, to avoid recognition, and to try to protect against any riot control agents used. Masks are also used to prevent recognition while showing membership of a group: * Masks are use by penitents in ceremonies to disguise their identity in order to make the act of penitence more selfless. The Semana Santa parades throughout Spain and in Hispanic or Catholic Church, Catholic countries throughout the world are examples of this, with their cone-shaped masks known as capirote. * Masks are used by vigilante groups. * The cone-shaped mask in particular is identified with the Ku Klux Klan in a self-conscious effort to combine the hiding of personal identity with the promotion of a powerful and intimidating image. * Members of the group Anonymous (group), Anonymous frequently wear masks (usually Guy Fawkes masks, best known from ''V for Vendetta'') when they attend protests. While the niqāb usually shows membership of some Islamic community, its purpose is not to hinder recognition, although it falls under some anti-mask laws such as the French ban on face covering. Cloth face masks may also be worn as a piece of apparel; in this context they are also known as anime masks.


Occupational

* Beaked masks containing herbs in the beak were worn in early modern Europe by plague doctors to try to ward off the Black Death. * Filter mask, a piece of safety equipment. * Fullface mask, Full-face diving mask as part of self-contained breathing apparatus for divers and others; some let the wearer talk to others through a built-in communication device * Respirator (gas or particulate mask), a mask worn on the face to protect the body from airborne pollutants and toxic materials, and fine particulate matter or infectious particles. * Oxygen mask worn by high-altitude pilots, or used in medicine to deliver oxygen, anesthetic, or other gases to patients * Welding mask to protect the welder's face and eyes from the brightness and sparks created during welding


Sports

* American football protective equipment#Helmet, American football helmet face mask * Balaclava (clothing), Balaclava, also known as a "ski mask", to protect the face against cold air. * Baseball catcher's mask. * Diving mask, an item of diving equipment that allows scuba divers, free-divers, and snorkelers to see clearly underwater. * Fencing mask. * Goaltender mask, a mask worn by an ice hockey, ice or field hockey goaltender to protect the head and face from injury. * Hurling helmets were made mandatory in 2010, and have a wire mask on the front to protect the player's face. * Kendo, a mask called ''Men'' is used in this Japanese sword-fighting martial art. * Paintball mask. * Visor (ice hockey). An interesting example of a sports mask that confounds the protective function is the wrestling mask, a mask most widely used in the Mexican/Latin lucha libre style of wrestling. In modern lucha libre, masks are colourfully designed to evoke the images of animals, deity, gods, ancient heroes, and other archetypes. The mask is considered "sacred" to some degree, placing its role closer to the ritual and performance function.


Punitive

Masks are sometimes used to punish the wearer either by signalling their humiliation or causing direct suffering: * A Scold's bridle, "shameful" mask ('':de:Schandmaske, Schandmaske'' in German language, German) is devised for public humiliation; a popular reduced form are donkey ears for a bad pupil or student * Particularly uncomfortable types, such as an iron mask, for example the Scold's bridle, are fit as devices for torture or corporal punishment * Masks were used to alienate and ''silence'' prisoners in Australian jails in the late 19th century. They were made of white cloth and covered the face, leaving only the eyes visible. * Use of masks is also common in BDSM practices.


Fashion

Decorative masks may be worn as part of a costume outside of ritual or ceremonial functions. This is often described as a masque, and relates closely to
carnival Carnival is a Western Christian 250px, St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, the largest church building in the world today. Western Christianity is one of two sub-divisions of Christianity Christianity is an Abrahamic religions, Abra ...
styles. For example, attendants of a costume party will sometimes wear masks as part of their costumes. Several artists in the 20th and 21st century, like Isamaya Ffrench and Damselfrau, create masks as wearable art. * Wrestling masks are used most widely in lucha libre, Mexican and Japanese wrestling. A wrestler's mask is usually related to a wrestler's
persona A persona (plural personae or personas), depending on the context, can refer to either the public image of one's personality, or the social role that one adopts, or a fictional character Character(s) may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and med ...

persona
(for example, a wrestler known as 'The Panda' might wear a mask with a panda's facial markings). Often, wrestlers will put their masks on the line against other wrestlers' masks, titles or an opponent's hair. While in Mexico and Japan, masks are a sign of tradition, they are looked down upon in the United States and Canada. * Several bands and performers, notably members of the groups Slipknot (band), Slipknot, Mental Creepers and Gwar, and the guitarist Buckethead, wear masks when they perform on stage. Several other groups, including Kiss (band), Kiss, Alice Cooper, and Dimmu Borgir simulate the effect with facepaint. Hollywood Undead also wears masks but often remove them mid-performance. * Leather-working, steampunk, and other methods and themes are occasionally used to create artisanal gas masks.


In works of fiction

Masks have been used in many horror films to conceal the identities of the killer. Notable examples include Jason Voorhees of the ''Friday the 13th (franchise), Friday the 13th'' series, Jigsaw (Saw character), Jigsaw Killer from Saw (2004 film), Saw, Ghostface (Scream), Ghostface of the ''Scream (film series), Scream'' series, and Michael Myers (Halloween), Michael Myers of the ''Halloween (franchise), Halloween'' series.


Other types

* A "buccal mask" is a mask that covers only the cheeks (hence the adjective "buccal") and mouth. * A
death mask A death mask is a likeness (typically in wax or plaster cast) of a person's face after their death, usually made by taking a cast or impression from the corpse. Death masks may be mementos of the dead, or be used for creation of portraits. It i ...
is a mask either cast from or applied to the face of a recently deceased person. * A "facial" (short for facial mask) is a temporary mask, not solid, used in cosmetics or as therapy for skin treatment. * A "life mask" is a plaster cast of a face, used as a model for making a painting or sculpture. * An animal roleplay mask is used for people to create a more animal-like image in fetish role play.


Gallery

File:Kwakwaka'wakw. Baleen Whale Mask, 19th century.jpg, Kwakwaka'wakw, Baleen Whale Mask, 19th century, Brooklyn Museum File:Cherokeelongfacemask.png, A Cherokee ceremonial mask made of wood File:Topeng Bali.jpg, Various Balinese Topeng, Balinese topeng dance masks File:Trommgesellenzunft Munderkingen Wusele Narrentreffen Meßkirch 2006.jpg, Fools Meeting or Parade, Meßkirch, Germany File:Dance Mask (Takü), 20th century, 61.34.2.jpg, Dance Mask (Takü), 20th century, Brooklyn Museum; These full-body masks are worn for the mourning, or ónyo ("weeping"), ceremony, a multi-day ritual held approximately a year after an individual's death File:04.02 總統視察「中央流行疫情指揮中心」 49726568957 66543b616e o.jpg, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen wearing a surgical mask during the COVID-19 pandemic File:Life mask of Ludwig van Beethoven, c. 1812 CE. The Wellcome Collection, London.jpg, Life mask of Ludwig van Beethoven, c. 1812. The Wellcome Collection, London File:Lincoln life cast.jpg, Life mask of Abraham Lincoln by Leonard Volk in 1860. File:Burger - vírus idején (2).jpg, Mask wearing customers in downtown Budapest.


See also

* Anti-mask law * Character mask * Pareidolia * Domino mask * Face masks during the COVID-19 pandemic


Notes


References


Further reading

* * * * * * * * Hungarian translation of Rasmussen 1926. * Sivin, Carole (1986). "Maskmaking". Worcester, Massachusetts, USA: Davis Publications, Inc. * Wilsher, Toby, "The Mask Handbook – A Practical Guide", Routledge 2007, www.routledge.com


External links


Ritual, Masks, and SacrificeMask Makers of Mas, BaliSmithsonian Institution African Mask LinksVirtual Museum of Death MaskGallery of Masks from Around the WorldCosta Rica Traditional Face Mask
{{Authority control Masks, African clothing