Mask By Martina

Since early childhood I carved, sculpted and modeled fantasy characters, dolls and faces from any material I could get my hands on. I am always intrigued and fascinated by ancient cultures, their traditions and ceremonies and their strong connection to nature.

Being outside surrounded by nature gives me a feeling of belonging and home. By creating a mask I can bond my passion of old cultures and nature together and create expressions of beauty in a way that can uplift and transform the human spirit. In studying leather sculptures from the Orient and Spain and Venetian Paper Mache’ masks from Italy I found a media challenging and rewarding at the same time.

The feathers I use are obtained from farm raised birds, mainly exotic chickens, various pheasants, turkeys and guineas. I create each piece intuitively starting with an idea of color and shape to reflect the energy and beauty of nature.

Native Cultures and Early Men

Early man and natives knew magic as an unexplained but functioning cause and effect relationship that they experienced on a very practical level. They have been and are confident that they can produce any circumstances they desire by imitating it.

Example: The rainmaker beats a drum to induce thunder and sprinkles water on the ground to draw rain from the sky. On the eve of a hunt the men dress in the skins of their prey. Thus costumed, they play out an elaborate mime of the hunt. They are confident that the play will confirm their success. 

When a Singhalese is dangerously ill, his relatives summon a local devil dancer. Dancing in appropriate costume and mask, he calls the demons of disease from the sick’s man body and into his own. He feigns death. The relatives carry the devil dancer outside the village to the place for the dead. Being left to himself, he miraculously finds life again, and the sick man enjoys complete recovery. 

The devil dancer, healer, rainmaker, hunter uses the most accurate device he knows of to portray his assumed character. He dons a mask, thus becoming the object of his imitative dramas. He relies on the mask to hide his own identity as he officiates at the ritual. 

The universality of these magical ceremonies is somewhat remarkable. You can find practices in the Congo, New Guinea, or Mexico very similar to those in the West Indies, Alaska or the outback of Australia.

As recently as 200 years ago, those scenes might well have been played in any part of our globe. The performances are now rare, but you can still witness this scenario being enacted in some parts of the world today. 

The major masquerades of western civilization , Halloween, Mardi Gras, and the Venice carnival, were once tied to holy days and had important religious meaning. These celebrations have lost their meaning and now are festive parties commemorating forgotten events. Our society’s use of the mask has become trivial compared to the serious and meaningful masquerades of our world neighbors.

Carnival in Venice, Rio De Janeiro, Mardi Gras in Louisiana, Karneval in Europe 

The word carnival derives probably from the Latin expression “carnem levare” which means literally to take away (prohibit) meat. Some have thought that it simply comes from the Latin words “carne” and “vale”, which, spoken together, would mean “farewell to meat”. In any case, Carnival celebrations have for many hundreds of years taken place just prior to the advent of Lent, a traditional period of abstinence, fasting and penitence. And the original sense of the words did not mean merely to give up eating meat but to renounce the many pleasures of the flesh for the forty-day period before Easter.

Citizens of Venice are quick to remind one that their earliest pre-Lenten Carnivals date back to the year 1094, when the great squares of the city were turned over to aristocratic pageantry, public sports competitions, and performances by roving minstrels and actors. The tradition of the Carnival mask was probably born at that time. Masks made it possible for aristocrats to mingle publicity in the crowds, for nobility to consort anonymously with commoners. The possibilities of disguise stir the imagination: the countess might seduce a fisherman, her noble husband could serenade a serving girl.

Carnival was also a time when fools took over the governing and could criticize kingdoms and church without the danger of being thrown into jail.

It was the time in many villages through out Europe when people put on masks and costumes, took drums and bells to scare away the winter spirits so that spring can arrive.

People then and now feel an urge to put on masks and take on another identity; to immerse themselves in the adventure of becoming someone else for just a day or two, costume and mask, he calls the demons of disease from the sick’s man body and into his own. He feigns death. The relatives carry the devil dancer outside the village to the place for the dead. Being left to himself, he miraculously finds life again, and the sick man enjoys complete recovery.

The devil dancer, healer, rainmaker, hunter uses the most accurate device he knows of to portray his assumed character. He dons a mask, thus becoming the object of his imitative dramas. He relies on the mask to hide his own identity as he officiates at the ritual.

The universality of these magical ceremonies is somewhat remarkable. You can find practices in the Congo, New Guinea, or Mexico very similar to those in the West Indies, Alaska or the outback of Australia.

As recently as 200 years ago, those scenes might well have been played in any part of our globe. The performances are now rare, but you can still witness this scenario being enacted in some parts of the world today.

The major masquerades of western civilization , Halloween, Mardi Gras, and the Venice carnival, were once tied to holy days and had important religious meaning. These celebrations have lost their meaning and now are festive parties commemorating forgotten events. Our society’s use of the mask has become trivial compared to the serious and meaningful masquerades of our world neighbors.

Contact Martina