A Mask for the Primitive of European Descent

Masks hide. Masks represent. Masks cause a change of persona. The wearer loses his or her identity. The wearer becomes someone or something else. A transformation occurs. The chains that bind to the accepted rules fall away. Freedom appears.

In the Western view masks are connected with the primitive. The masks of the Pacific West Coast Indians come to mind as the most familiar local example. African masks are also extremely well known. These masks represent characters, animals and spirits from myth and legend. They were/are used to tell these stories in dance and other rituals.

We who lack the highly spiritual background of the American Indian and the African can sense the tremendous power of some of the masks we see catalogued in museum collections. But such masks have mostly disappeared from our usual societal traditions. Our world view focusses on masks used in the theatre - the Greek tragedy, the Italian commedia dell'arte, the Japanese no and kyogen plays. But the users of these masks are actors on a stage. We are not actors in a play; we are just citizens and we don't expect to wear masks.

But there was a time... before the computer, before the automobile, before the cotton gin. Before our brains had been subdivided, categorized and catalogued. Before our minds had been drained of instinct, cleansed and purified. Some few relics of that time still exist. Perhaps we should let one such speak for itself...

Do you know me? Your ancestors did.
Once I was powerful. Once I ruled.
You forgot me. You lost me.
What am I now? What are you now?

With me you had power.
With me you ruled.
Without me you are apart.
Without me you mean nothing.

Do you feel powerless? You are.
Do you feel alone? You are.
Your connection is lost.
Your understanding is gone.

You can find me again.
I am still here.
Reach down. Reach further down.
Reach in. Reach further in.

Look into the darkness.
Look into the unknown.
I am here. Inside you.
I am a part of you. I am you.

In order to stay within my own identity and avoid cultural appropriation I have loosely based the presented mask upon an old Swiss mask from Graubunden. It probably represented a devil or evil spirit. This new mask represents the wild-man, the primitive within our overcivilized veneer. It is the dark and powerful unconscious that we have repressed to our detriment.