Saturday, September 25, 2010

Masking History Part 6

As we look at Latin and South America, their own traditions of mask celebrations were taking hold. "The Day Of The Dead" is a celebration that has a murky history. The day is the celebtration of past loved ones. The general thme of the day is that one invites the deceased into their homes, where there are offerings left out for them of food and gifts. This celebration is one of their past lives and accomplishments, and not dwelling on the fact that they are gone. It goes with the spiritual idea that "as long as they are remembered, they will always have life". The day is currently celebrated between Oct 30 to Nov 2, though there these vary according to region. The day used to be celebrated through the months of August and September, but it is believed that when The Spanish came to Latin America, like their European counterparts, they were aghast that the dead would celebrated in such a manner. After much friction, the days are believed to have been changed to the current October/November days to keep in line with Christianity's "All Hallows Eve(Halloween), and All Saints day. Again it is murky. Also murky is how far back the celebration goes. There are records that show the Mayans celebrated the day in some fashion.
Masks play a huge role. "Catrina", or "The Lady Of The Dead" is the feminine representation of death, and her face is worn in parades and celebrations, as well as her image being very visible. Masks of skulls and other death related images are worn. The masks can range from Plastic to paper mache to Latex to face paint. There is food, drink and memorials of those who are departed. It is a day to remember those we loved, and the lives they shared with us.

In the next part, which will be the final "Overview" of masking history before we get into specific. we will take a closer look at the origins of Mardi Gras in North America-and how masks were used in part to "hide in plain sight" in its origins.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Maskingfaces Notebook: Mask History Part 5

Maskingfaces Notebook: Mask History Part 5: "Mask History So, in the previous part we looked at Masks in Japanese theatre. We travel back to about 13000 BCE and find ourselves in Nor..."

Mask History Part 5

Mask History

So, in the previous part we looked at Masks in Japanese theatre. We travel back to about 13000 BCE and find ourselves in Norther America. Masks are believed to have been used during this time. The bering strait is the oceanic boundry between modern day Alaska of the United States and Russia. During this time period, the Strait was frozen over, and it is believed that many made they way form the Asian continent into North America. The Inuit are seen as of the oldest "named" people of the time, living in Alaska and the North West Territories of Canada. These people were using stone masks ads part of their own rituals, as stone artefacts have been found in this area dating to around 2000 BCE. As time moved so did the people, as more came into North America. As we move southward into the United States, the Hohokum people would populate what is now teh modern day Southwest-the dating for this time is between 1200-BCE-400 AD. People spread out into different regions. In the Pacific Northwest, the native people have used wooden masks of increasing complexity to tell stories of their history, of their gods and goddesses, and as a way of telling parables to teach lessons about life. These masks would get so involved that 2 or even three piece "mask within masks" were used to tell these stories. For example, a story teller might tell a story of a salmon, and have a mask showing the different parts of the salmon's life and experiences. These masks grew to be very large in size and are considered works of art in themselves. The use of these masks regularly occured until the Europeans started landing on North American shores in the 15th century. While the masks would still be used, the expansion of the settlers over the centuries would intermingle with the Native people, leading to less focus on all aspects of that life, including mask ritual.

In the next part, we will take a look at Mexico and Latin countries, and how their celebration of the dead has a strong mask influence.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Mask History Part 4

So, as Europe came out of the Dark Ages, and the Masks slowly following, an intriguing little bit of mask history was taking place far to the East in Japan. The masks were originally thought to have found their origin in Korea, but the details are sketchy. Very few original masks remain, and we know so little about them. The Gigaku masks had the forms of animals, demons and "super humans". The faces were made of wood and portrayed dramatic expressions. This theatre would go through a number of incarntions, leading eventually to Noh theatre, which is still performed in Japan and Asia. Noh, introduced by Kannami Zeami in 1336, also uses masks. Unlike our theatre, performances in Noh can take a full day to tell a story, and often have epic plots with detailed characters. An interesting fact about Noh is that Men would play both male and female roles, as females were forbidden from the stage, not unlike European theatre during this time. As a result, the men would wear female masks and become "dolls" or "dolling" practice. This practice would eventually contribute to modern day Kigurumi, "dolling" involves wearing a full body suit and mask of a female character for Anime and Manga characters, though it is not the only form of Kigurumi-other forms include "fur suit" or "furries", what we would know in North America as "mascots"; large animal costumes including fully encased head.

So Asia and Europe were moving forward with their mask making and wearing, where does North America lie? As we'll discover in our next part, we find masks dating back over ten thousand years before Common Era, not unlike our earlier discovery in France-though a different history is uncovered.