the origin of masks
Extracts from this essay...
The Origins of Masks. Introduction. There is evidence that masks have been under the eye of the world for at least 20,000 years. There is evidence to prove this all over the world, which includes paintings on the walls of the insides of various different caves in Southern France, to images also painted or inscribed on the walls of pyramids in the Sahara desert of Egypt. Although our own British culture is extremely different to that of many others around the world, we are becoming increasingly more aware of how and why masks were first invented and the repercussions of them all around the globe. This is due to television documentaries, internet pages, and books at all of our local libraries. It is this point alone which initially brought my attention to that of the African Tribal, Japanese Theatrical and the Viennese Ball masks. Although these are all quite different types of masks, they all have similar reasons for existing, whether it is religious, celebratory, or even to shadow one's identity. By today's standards, many people believe the creation and use of masks to be only that of historical value; however this could not be more wrong as there is in depth evidence all around us which proves otherwise.
These particular masks are used to represent a demon, (this can be taken literally or metaphorically, depending on the story line of the play). For example, if the certain play is centered on the afterlife or elements of a more dark, or gothic nature, the Shikami mask would more often than not be taken literally. However if the play was focusing on more modern themes, for example adultery, or murder, the Shikami mask would probably be metaphorical for a person who is to be looked upon as being of a more evil or bad nature. I believe that the way in which the Shikami mask is presented is extremely clever, as on many occasions, it would look like Satan or other dark or demonic characters as they would do so from a stereotypical point of view, in order to make the audience immediately scared or at least weary about them. A basic description which is used across many books and internet sources for a Shikami mask is, "Fierce scowling face, showing extreme agitation, used for demonic spirit. It expresses masculine rage. The Shikami mask features the application of dark red colour, to crow's-feet and temples of the head"3. Japanese masks are always made of materials such as clay, dry lacquer, cloth, paper, and wood.
Considering the time period in which these masks were originally created, it astounds me to even consider how such a complex design was achieved with the tools that they would have had access to. The initial idea of the long, pointed nose was almost a superstition as it was believed to be an imitation of the devise which was used to hold vinegar in around the time of the bubonic plague to hold off the disease, or at least the bad odors of the sick or dying. Conclusion. From the research which I have gathered about these three different masks, I have discovered that although they all originated in extremely different circumstances, the reasons for their creations are not all that different. It is clear to me that whether the reason for the masks' being is to allow someone to transform into animal form in order to get in touch with their spiritual or ancestral roots, or simply just to shadow someone's everyday personality, they have been put their, in place in order to allow a person to change their usual form; almost a form of escapism. It ha also come to my attention that whether it regards masks, or any other aspect of a certain culture which is different to our own, they are most definitely not to be underestimated no matter what time period in which it derives from.
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