Mascara Mexicana? Mexican Mask?

I think I have answered my own question but bear with me. It’s a process.

I like to collect Mexican folk art and amongst my collection I have several wooden masks.

I have come upon a bit of a mystery (possibly of mistaken identity) regarding a mask in my collection.

El Chamuco?
The Devil?

I purchased this mask (above) second hand from a woman who reckons she (probably) purchased it in Tulum and it immediately brought to mind a mask I had found a few months earlier (below) that I have been unable to identify the source of.

I got the mask below from a woman who thinks she purchased it in Mexico, “or possibly Tonga”, as it was so long ago (more than 20 years) and although she couldn’t remember exactly where it came from, she remembers the trip on which she purchased it.

This mask drew my attention immediately. It spoke to me of Tlaloc, although it has strong Asian overtones to it. The goggle eyes and the structure of the mouth bought to mind the Mexican water deity as shown in the images below of clay masks (known to be) of Tlaloc

A comparison of the two. When set side by side, the mask on the left truly appears to be Asian in nature, and when we get a little further down the page it most likely is Asian in nature (although from exactly where is up for debate).

Interestingly the colour of the reverse of the mask (image above left) is reminiscent of the Mesoamerican practice of using chia seed oil (often stained red with the cochineal insect or various earth based pigments) as a sealing/lacquering agent for wooden articles. As an example of this I shall use the prehispanic drinking vessel now known as a jicara (1)

  1. a small, woody container, typically made from the fruit of the calabash tree (Crescentia cujete) or Mexican calabash (Crescentia alata)

The eyebrows (above) and bridge of the nose (below) seem to be crafted, if not by the same hand, in the same style. Although………the eyebrows in the mascara on the right appear to be crafted as a fishes tail.

The noses and mouths of the two also appear quite similar. The teeth, tongue and chin of the image (below right) appear similar to Maori tattoos known as Tā moko.

Tā moko is the permanent marking or “tattoo” as traditionally practised by Māori, the indigenous people of New Zealand. Tā moko was worn by both men and women. It was applied to the face and buttocks of men, and to the chin, lips and shoulders of women.

The extended tongue of the mask is also reminiscent of the Maori habit of “poking out” the tongue during the traditional dance called the Haka. The Haka is a ceremonial dance often carried out on the battlefield (and the sports ground) (1). It was performed on the battlefields for two reasons. Firstly, it was done to scare their opponents; the warriors would use aggressive facial expressions such as bulging eyes and poking of their tongues. They would grunt and cry in an intimidating way, while beating and waving their weapons. and it has been said (jokingly?) that the poking out of the tongue signified to the enemy that “my mouth waters and I lick my lips for soon I will taste your flesh”.

  1. Haka can be performed by both men and women and are often performed to welcome distinguished guests, or to acknowledge great achievements, occasions, or funerals.
New Zealand Rugby Team (the All Blacks) performing the Haka (on the “battlefield”)
The dance loses none of its ferocity when performed by women.

When searching for images of wooden masks I came across the sale of this particular mask. It was listed as “A vintage wooden wall mask, made in Thailand in the 1980’s. The mask has been hand carved and painted by hand in pastel tones and adorned with tiny mirrored beads”. It is very similar to the mask in my possession and it appears to be quite old (although 40 years is not that great of an age). Perhaps it was just exposed to the elements for a long time.

Masks of similar artistry have been identified as being ……..

……….although a Google Image search primarily identifies the mask as being Thai.

The examples below are from the WorthPoint website (1). Both are listed as being sourced from Thailand. Both show similar staining on the reverse of the mask.

  1. according to their website (https://www.worthpoint.com/ ) WorthPoint Corporation is the largest resource for researching, valuing, and buying/selling antiques, art and vintage collectibles. Our suite of offerings on WorthPoint.com includes a price guide for researching and valuing antiques, art, and collectibles; a resource gallery for identifying makers’ marks; and, a digital library of books from leading publishers on a wide range of collecting topics.

For reference sake …….some examples of Thai headdress.

Alas. I think my latest acquisitions are Asian (most likely Thai) in their provenance. This causes no detraction for me and they have taken their places on the walls of my abode.

If anyone has further information on my two masks please Comment on this Post

………or perhaps there was some, since long lost, Mother culture that affected the cultural expressions of peoples now living in the equatorial regions of the Earth?

Mu?

Lemuria?

Atlantis?????

References

  • Donnelly, I. (1882). Atlantis: The antediluvian world. New York: Harper & Bros
  • Kibin. (2022). The influence of Atlantis in the cultures of Egypt and México. http://www.kibin.com/essay-examples/the-influence-of-atlantis-in-the-cultures-of-egypt-and-mexico-7ja7g6We
  • Leyenaar, Ted J.J. “Mexican lacquers from Guerrero /La laca Mexicana de Guerrero” (PDF). Netherlands: National Museum of Ethnology Museum Volkenkunde. Archived from the original (PDF) on December 13, 2014. Retrieved 20/04/22
  • Schwimmer, George PhD. (2014) MU: THE FIRST GREAT CIVILIZATION – And Its Connection To Peru, The Hopi And New Mexico. 7th Ed. ASIN ‏ : ‎ B00B39SOOG
  • Tara Mata (Laurie Pratt) Lemuria and Atlantis : https://silo.tips/download/lemuria-and-atlantis : Retrieved 21/04/22
  • Winters, Dr Clyde. (2013) Atlantis in Mexico: The Mande Discovery of America : ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1411652774

Websites

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