May 05, 2017 2 min read
On a trip in 2009, I got this Yao mask from back of the bottom drawer of a store owned by an elderly couple. The beautiful woman and I shared only a few words in any common language … and yet I loved her and cannot forget her pleasant happy personality.
At 80 years of age, she was still in love with her things and did not sell me one of the things I asked for. But I did get 2 pieces from her.
This Yao mask is one of them.
[I thought I had lost this piece after an exhibition – but was delighted to find it rolled up inside and stored safely inside another scroll!]
Masks such as these are worn by priests during ceremonies as a part of the ritualistic assumption of higher powers.
The construction and the condition both announce the age of this artwork that has a long history of usage within the community.
Note the multilayered handmade paper base.
Note also the crown and the fine details of the eyebrows and moustache in the painting.
Every element of this piece including the construction is a testimony of its age.
Estimated to be from the 1800s, this piece is among the oldest that I have seen!
Sometimes I am attracted to the sheer beauty of the art and at other times, like in this case, it is the age and the lost method of creation, the lost cultural practice associated with the piece and the lost era that gets me! And in a world filled with reproductions, this old piece is a breath of fresh air!
If only we could live all the many lives possible in all the different geographies and all their eras!
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