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    Land of winds > Traditions > Clothing | Issue 11 (Jul.-Aug. 2012)
    By Edgardo Civallero | Sara Plaza

Carnival masks

Carnival masks

Masks are both a central feature of the festival and an essential item of clothing for traditional Andean dancers across the Altiplano region. This imaginative and colourful piece turn dancers into different characters, endowed with a distinctive voice and a unique personality, who carry a story on their face. Dancers undergo a magical metamorphosis that turns them into a devil, a cunning person or a fading Don Juan. Aymara culture is bountiful with masks. Their presence extends well beyond the Bolivian Altiplano and the shores of the Titicaca Lake to the north of Chile and north-western Argentina. Originally made of wool, plant fibres, leather and wood, they are now made of plaster cast and plastic, and there are also glass-fibre versions.

Carnival masks

The most famous masks in the Andes are probably those of devils, she-devils (china supay) and archangels worn at the Diablada festival. Masterpieces of craft, these magnificent, fearsome masks feature horns, bulging eyes, large twisted fangs and are covered with vermin (including snakes, toads and lizards).

Picture 01. Diablada mask of china supay (she-devil) 01.
Picture 02. Diablada mask of china supay (she-devil) 02.
Picture 03. Diablada mask of china supay (she-devil) 03.
Picture 04. Diablada mask of devil 01.
Picture 05. Diablada mask of devil 02.
Picture 06. Diablada mask of devil 03.
Picture 07. Diablada mask of Lucifer.

Devils can also be found in many parts of the Andes: for example in the Carnival of Humahuaca (Jujuy, Argentina) and the Carnival of Alangasí (Pichincha, Ecuador).

Picture 08. Humahuaca Carnival devils (Argentina).
Picture 09. Alangasí devil (Ecuador).

Carnival masks

The morenos that take part in the popular dance known as Morenada (which has its origins in Oruro, Bolivia) also come in splendid masks resembling the African slaves brought to Bolivia to work in the silver mines of Potosí ("morenos" referring to black people). According to ancient sources, these "morenos" would have been regarded as being dirty people, crooks, thieves and liars by local indigenous population. Present-day masks tend to exaggerate those traits showing curly-hair, bulging eyes, thick lips and large tongue.

Picture 10. Morenada mask 01.
Picture 11. Morenada mask 02.
Picture 12. Morenada mask 03.
Picture 13. Morenada mask 04.

Carnival masks

The masks worn during the Llamerada or qarwani dance represent Andean camelids shepherds with big eyes and pursued lips whistling.

Picture 14. Llamerada mask.
Picture 15. Llamerada masks.

Carnival masks

There are other masks out there adding a colourful touch to the Andean Carnival such as those worn by dancers performing traditional dances like Ch'utas (Bolivia), Auqui auqui (Bolivia), Auqui Blanco (Peru), Chunchos and Tobas (Bolivia), Pacochis (Bolivia) and, Negritos (Peru), as well as by central characters in the celebrations like the kusillos, the "pepino" and the bear or jukumari.

Picture 16. Ch'utas dancers.
Picture 17. Auqui auqui mask (Bolivia).
Picture 18. Auqui blanco mask (Peru).
Picture 19. Chunchos masks.
Picture 20. Tobas masks.
Picture 21. Pacochis dancers.
Picture22. Negritos (blacks) masks.
Picture 23. Kusillo mask 01.
Picture 24. Kusillo mask 02.
Picture 25. Kusillo mask 03.
Picture 26. Kusillo mask 04.
Picture 27. "Pepino" mask.
Picture 28. Jukumari mask 01.
Picture 29. Jukumari mask 02.

Masks room in MUSEF (Bolivia’s National Museum of Ethnography and Folklore) [es].

Picture A | Picture B | Picture C | Picture D | Picture E.

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