A look at cultural masks around the world.

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Culture
Travel
Coronavirus

Masks have been used all over the world for centuries for all kinds of religious and cultural celebrations. Some masks honor the deceased, some represent animals or spirits, and some simply hide a person’s identity. Now that we all have the task of wearing masks for protection during the coronavirus pandemic, Tekk.tv takes a look at the types of masks that were used long before they became part of the world’s daily wardrobe.

1. hunting festivals, Alaska

The Yup’ik and Inupiaq peoples wear masks during special ceremonies, the most important of which are the midwinter hunting festivals. These masks, carved by a shaman – or under his supervision – sometimes represent the spiritual helpers of a shaman and can also be hung in houses to ward off harmful spirits.

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2nd Carnival, New Orleans

The legalization of masks in New Orleans dates back to 1827. Although only legal at carnivals, wearing masks is a large part of traditional Cajun and Creole events and minimizes class distinctions.

3rd Día de los Muertos, Mexico

The Day of the Dead commemorates the deceased family members. During this celebration at the end of October, people often paint their faces or wear masks made of clay or papier-mâché that resemble skulls, and create altars or ofrendas to celebrate the deceased.

4. bailes, guatemala

Since colonial times, masks have been worn at various fully scripted performances, the so-called bailes or danzas. These tell both historical and mythical stories. They are performed at indigenous festivals and Catholic festivals and often depict animals, saints, conquerors or Mayan warriors.

5 FESTIMA, Dédougou, Burkina Faso

The biennial Festival International des Masques et des Arts (FESTIMA) celebrates and exhibits traditional masks from various West African countries. These masks, which are worn by dancers, are made of leaves, straw and wood and symbolize the worship of ancestors and spirits. They also honor the traditional wearing of masks during rituals such as weddings and funerals.

6th Carnival, Venice

Hundreds of years ago the Venetians dressed up during the Carnevale di Venezia, an annual festival that attracts thousands of tourists. During the French conquest and the Austrian occupation the wearing of masks was forbidden, although this tradition was revived in 1979.

7th Kandyan Dances, Sri Lanka

A variety of traditional dances ward off demons, provide entertainment and heal the sick. Most contain masks, which are made in a long process from the wood of the local Kaduru tree. Each mask is associated with a particular piece of folklore or character.

8. balinese masks, Bali

With roots in animism – the belief that plants, inanimate objects and other natural phenomena have souls – these masks are seen as a way for spirits to visit the physical world. They are reserved only for use during sacred ceremonies, but tourists can purchase masks that are specially made for decorative purposes.

9th Noh Theater, Japan

The purely male Noh theater, which was created in the 14th century, is the oldest great theater art that is still regularly performed. The main character, or shite, wears a mask made of Japanese cypress, which tells the audience what kind of figure to expect.

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