My Mask Collection

When I was a pre-teen living in Brazil, I was surprised to learn that a tribe of headhunters had camped only 50 miles away from my city.  Now, I realize that the tribe had probably been given a bad rap as a result of our ignorance in general and my naiveté specifically.  Probably they weren’t even headhunters.  But at the time it felt pretty scary.  I had visited a souvenir shop with my mom and had seen “genuine” shrunken heads.  I was pretty sure those hunters were going to steal into the city at night, hiding behind their face paint and feathers, looking for my head.

Okay, I was an imaginative child.

My mother bought these masks (not shrunken heads) from that souvenir shop to start my collection:

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They represent faces, rather than covering up faces, as we think of masks today.

Later, in Costa Rica, I found something similar to add to my collection:

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But my favorite masks?  These come from the Caribbean, and they represent spirits that people wear when they dance, communing with the spirits, asking favors of them.

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The masks in my collection are small, about the size of a fist, because:

  1. They take up less space, and
  2. They cost less.

But I have seen magnificent, larger-than-life masks in some collections.  And they fired my imagination again.  So I used them in a scene in one of my mysteries, where there is a collection of large masks hanging on a wall, covering up a spy hole.  Of course, this gets my protagonist into deep trouble.

I never set out to collect masks, in fact I never set out to collect anything.  I sort of fell into my collections.  Now it’s fun when something unexpected like that pops up into our stories!

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8 thoughts on “My Mask Collection”

  1. I remember being in Puerto Rico for Christmas and St. Croix for Three Kings Day. The masks and costumes used were phenomenal! I should find those pictures. The people were so enthusiastic; I’d love to see that again some day.

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  2. Yes, Pottsy, definitely scary! It reminds me of the “shrunken” heads.

    Mary, there is so much colorful energy around the masks and costumes. It’s such a pleasure to witness.

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  3. I love collecting things (my small apartment keeps me from going too crazy!). Love your masks, and as another formerly imaginative child, I would have thought the very same thing about the head hunters!

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