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The Mask


                                                             (Female Mask - Igbo People)

I have been working with mask making the last few weeks. They are simple, self-drying clay masks.  Now that one of them is ready for some paint I have started to look it at more as a symbol. Today, when I looked at it though I realized it was quite grotesque and well, in a word hideous. But in all its ugliness, that is what masks can be for us.  The beauty is that a mask can be whatever we want it to be and used for a diverse array of purposes.


                                                             (Okuyi Mask - Punu People)


What happens when we peel away the mask and expose ourselves fully to the world? 
 
What does the mask allow us to be that we can’t otherwise be?

Is the mask a conduit to spirit? 

Does the mask inherently possess spirit?


These are all things I have been thinking about and then Paul Laurence Dunbar’s beautiful poem popped into my head. Now, I can’t get it out of my head. I am sharing it here with you: 

  

     We Wear the Mask

By Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906)

    WE wear the mask that grins and lies,
    It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—
    This debt we pay to human guile;
    With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
    And mouth with myriad subtleties.
    Why should the world be over-wise,
    In counting all our tears and sighs?
    Nay, let them only see us, while
            We wear the mask.

    We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
    To thee from tortured souls arise.
    We sing, but oh the clay is vile
    Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
    But let the world dream otherwise,
            We wear the mask!


Food for thought...

Comments

  1. Wow! I just led a mask making workshop on Saturday. We used plaster. What kind of clay are you using for these masks? I'd like to give it a try.

    Thanks,
    Szmeralda

    ReplyDelete
  2. Szmeralda, I am doing self-drying clay masks in an Expressive Arts Workshop, also using that gauze cloth that has been dipped in plaster for sculptural forms and will begin in with papier mache soon. I am finding it to be a healing activity. The exquisite masks I posted here, are done by some amazing artists that I have identified. If you look underneath each image, you will see what group of people made them. Nice to hear from you! Hope your workshop went well!.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Acclaimed author Anne Rice posted a link to this article about Neolithic Spirit Masks today on FB. Thought some of you might be interested if you liked this post: http://www.timesofisrael.com/eerie-neolithic-masks-to-make-israel-museum-debut/

    ReplyDelete

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