S S M A K
MASKS • Masks are a universal cultural link being found in most nations all over the world. They form a silent language which is understood all over the world and which defines the essence of human expressions and emotions at various levels- spiritual, religious, and material.
MASKS IN SRI LANKA • The mask seen here is Kolam, worn during performance of a tantritale (folktale) in which a treacherous princess gives up her husband for a rival king, who then rejects her. The moral of the story is that the princess is like a greedy fox, who drops a piece of meat to grab for a fish instead, but loses both the meat and the fish in the process.
MASKS IN SRI LANKA • This Kolam mask (see previous page) uses a makaraarch to symbolize the Karava people, who are ethnic fisherfolk. The female figure standing under the arch can "juggle" the spheres in her hands -- they move up and down on the wires as the mask is wiggled. It is seen, on this and the following mask, that Hindu religious iconography has been coopted to serve the cultural requirements of the villagers who carve and dance the masks.
MASKS IN SRI LANKA • This mask impersonates Garuda, the solar bird who is the vehicle of Vishnu. It is used in a Raksha Dance (Demon Dance) to frighten away the Cobra Demon. Garuda is decorated with enemy snakes, as if they were a sort of trophy. The dance is apotropic, its purpose being to magically avert the real danger that snakebite poses to the villagers.
MASKS IN SRI LANKA • This elaborate and impressive cobra mask is a counterpart to the Garuda mask seen on the previous page. The masks displayed and sold here come in a wide range of sizes, like the medium and small-size Sanni masks to the left.
MASKS IN SRI LANKA • Maha Kola is the boss of 18 demons of illness that are represented in the Sanni Dance ("Devil Dance"). Holding victims in his hands and mouth, Maha Kola is surrounded by snakes and by the 18 Sanniyas - the demons of blindness, cholera, boils, and other pestilences, each of whom is given its own mask.
MASKS IN AFRICA • African masks often represent the spirits of dead ancestors. Masked family members act out special rituals to pass on sacred teachings from one generation to the next. • Tribal gatherings, festivals and other ceremonies are also occasions for which masks are worn.
MASKS IN SIKKIM • This mask is from the Himilayan country of Sikkim. It represents the Lord of the Dead, Mahakalla, who is featured at the New Year’s Festivals. As in other cultures that have such a character, Mahakalla took the souls of the dead from the world of the living to the world of the dead. By acting out these myths each year, adults pass the story on to young people
MASKS IN INDIA • In northeastern India there is a three day spring dance festival held in honor of the gods Shiva and Surya. Shiva represented by this mask, is the creator and the destroyer of the universe; Surya is the goddess of the sun.
MASKS IN JAPAN • The beautifully hand carved wooden masks of Japan’s theatre were first used about 600 years ago in religious plays that were only seen by priests and nobility. Today anyone can attend the plays. Artists carve the delicate masks out of lightweight wood.
MASKS IN MEXICO • In a Halloween –like spirit of fun, the souls of the dead are invited to return to earth to enjoy their family and friends again. People in parades wear masks.
MASKS IN UK • The Carnival of Venice is the most famous and internationally renowned of all the Italian carnivals, drawing hundreds of thousands of tourists and visitors to the city, all to witness and partake in the eye-catching masked spectacle.
MASKS IN UK • Once decrees pertaining to mask-wearing were passed, the wearing of masks was only permitted between the Festival of Santo Stefano (St. Stephen's Day on December 26th) at the start of the carnival season and midnight of Shrove Tuesday (usually in February), the culmination of the carnival.
MASKS IN UK • Christmas masks in UK.