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:
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:
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.
The masks in my collection are small, about the size of a fist, because:
- They take up less space, and
- 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!