Collections •  About masks  

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The mask is not easy to define. There is a great variety of mask types (face masks, helmet masks, headdress masks, belly masks etc.) and of materials (wood, plastic, feathers, animal skin, straw etc.). Masks have innumerable functions: they occur in initiation ceremonies, funerals, agricultural rituals and carnivals and on many other occasions. Each mask reflects the social, political, religious, cultural and historic features of the society which has produced it. By the way, the word “mask” can also be applied to make-up, puppets, scarifications etc. In an introduction to the mask it should also be mentioned that it is never an object used apart. It is worn together with accessories and a costume – which is often included in the term “mask” - and is accompanied by music. It can be found in the heart of a community consisting of the mask wearer, his attendants and the spectators. Moreover, it is worn in a particular place and at a particular time. All this – and many other elements – make the mask a paradox object: it is at the same time a ritual and a festive object, it is scheming and mysterious. It is universal but at the same time each mask is unique.

The Mask Museum preserves about 10 000 masks, costumes, puppets, ritual object and music instruments, but also posters, sheet music and iconographic documents. It possesses about 30.000 objects. They come from near (Binche, Belgium and Europe) and far (America, Asia, Oceania, Africa) and despite their amazing diversity they only give a very global idea of the cultural wealth of the world we live in. They give us the opportunity to discover the traditions, mythologies, practices and beliefs of other peoples and make us aware of the fact that we are “world citizens”.