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Ceremonial Masks Around the World

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Hannah Tomlinson Gils

on 1 April 2014

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Transcript of Ceremonial Masks Around the World

Ceremonial Masks Around the World

A North American Indian Death Mask
The North American Indians
Much like Australian Aborigines, the North American Indians' culture, beliefs, customs and history were passed from generation to generation using songs, dances and stories.
They had stories to explain why the seasons changed, how the different groups came to be and stories about those groups among many others.
It was believed that everything and everyone was connected with spirits and the only connection between the spirits and the natural world were the 'Shamans' or 'Medicine Men'
It was their job to look after the tribe by making sure there was enough food, influence the weather and most importantly cure the sick.
Haida Raven Dancer
Although many Shamans were men, women could also be one.
When a member of the tribe fell ill, the Indians believed that it was because the spirit world had intervened or the person had lost their soul. As the Shaman was the only person able to communicate with the spirits, they had to cure the sick.
Shamans wore:
- Bearskin robes
- Aprons
- Rattles
- Skin drums
- Charms and necklaces
- Masks (on some occaisons)
The name given to most Northwest Coast ceremonies and celebrations is 'Potlatch'. This was a big ceremonial feast which usually correlated with a member of the tribes change of social status (birth, death, marriage, etc) and took more than a year to plan. A potlatch could last for up to two to three weeks and included dances wearing costumes, singing and a feast.
Part of the costumes the dancers wore included masks. Masks were an important part of all ceremonies, not just the Potlatchs. A common theme of these ceremonies was metamorphosis so many tribes had a transformation mask.
African Tribes
An essential part of the traditional culture and arts for the Subsaharan and West African tribes are ceremonial and ritual masks.
Each tribe has a Tribal Artist, who is responsible for providing different sculptures and masks for the tribe to use in ritual ceremonies. The role involves many years of training by the master carver or the role is passed from father to son. The apprentice must learn the traditional carving techniques and how to use these to create religious and social sculptures and masks.

Brazilian Masks
A Haida Transformation Mask
A Haida Copper Mask
Copper masks were a sign of wealth
Carnival Masks
North American Indian Shamans
Brazilian Carnival is held just before Lent every year and is often called the 'World's Biggest Party' or the 'Greatest Show on Earth' by brazilians.
The first official Brazilian Carnival first took place in 1642 in Rio de Janeiro after John Paul IV was crowned as king and the public celebrated in the streets of Rio.
The Carnival is a major part of Brazilian culture and many different parades are held all through Brazil.
Rio de Janeiro
Every year the Carnival in Rio attracts millions of tourists, foreigners and brazilians, coming to see the 'Greatest Show on Earth'.
The most recognised part of Rio's Carnival is 'School of Samba'. The best Samba groups from Rio are chosen each year to participate and they spend most of the year trying to prepare the best the dances, costumes, music, lyrics and floats to try and win the competition.

Rio Samba Schools
The samba schools of Rio are not places were you learn to samba as the name may suggest, they are social clubs or associations that correspond to the many different neighbourhoods of Rio.
Each samba school has their own flag and representative colours and a new official song each year. They have different departments, partnerships, marketing professionals and sub-divisions, official headquarters, workshops, fans and supporters and even events where fans can meet some of the participants.
Although they have been around for longer, Samba school's weren't introduced into carnival until the 1920's
It's considered one of Brazil's most popular samba schools because of it's tradition and strong community support. It is Rio's oldest existing samba schools.
Beija- Flor
Beija-Flor is currently ranked the highest of all the Rio schools. It is known for its exceptional and unique artistic ideas and presentation. It is also currently the only school with a full team of Carnaval Designers, most schools have only one. It won for the first time in 1998 then again in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008 and 2011.
Carnival Costumes and Masks
Since Carnival first began the costumes and masks have changed and advanced substantially.
During the first years of Brazilian Carnival costumes had different uses and protocol. They gave some people the ability to act differently, to express their dreams and desires and most of all the feeling and enjoyment of a sense of freedom. The masks allowed the poor to associate with the rich, the slaves to associate with what would normally have been their employers and the different races to associate with one another without having to worry about their status or the colour of their skin or what they needed to survive the next few days.
Brazilian Carnival Ball
While people celebrated Carnival on the streets, many people celebrated it behind closed doors at invite only masquerade balls. The very first one took place on January 22nd, 1840 in the Hotel Italia but they didn't become popular until the 1840's.
As popularity grew so did the different sorts of masquerade balls. Families held them in their houses, there were some held outside and even masquerade balls held just for children.
The masks of the African tribes are a essential part of their culture. They are used to represent the spirits of their ancestors or to control the good and evil within the tribe and wider community in their social and religious events.
When they perform with the masks, the members of the tribe participating in the ceremony are joined by traditional african music. The bond between animal and man is very important to the people of the tribes so some masks combine the features of animals and man into one.
The masks can be made from many different materials including wood, copper, bronze, terra cotta and textiles and are often decorated with shells, beads, animal skins and bones.
Despite this, the majority of masks created are made from wood as there are lots of trees and it is believed that trees have a spiritual soul and that its spirit is most comfortable in the wood of the mask.
A sacrifice is made before each tree is cut down to show respect for the spirit of the tree.
The wooden masks are commonly decorated with natural dyes made from vegetables, seeds, bark and insects. On rare occasions they are splashed with sacrificial blood.
The tools used to carve the masks also have their own spirits and are passed from one generation of Tribal Artist to the next.
Chinese Masks
Traditional Chinese Masks
The first Chinese masks are thought to have been made about 3,500 years ago as a part of religious healing.
Since then masks have played a large part in many Chinese rituals, dances and opera. They still continue to be worn for weddings, religious ceremonies and cultural events.
Chinese masks are made of wood or are painted onto a person's face and are worn on someone's head or face.
The sorcerers' mask were worn in ceremonies to settle a person's soul after they had passed away or to welcome the god of good fortune.
Chinese masks were also used for getting rid of evil spirits or exorcising. The Chinese people wore masks to keep homes safe and to celebrate births. The masks were used to scare the ghosts.
Another major use of masks in Chinese culture is for Chinese Operas and theater productions. Masks or painted faces are used to create characters. Different colours on the masks represent different qualities in the character. For example red means you are devoted, brave, decent and loyal in character.
An exorcises' mask
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