Expositions • Permanent exhibitions  

After an introduction to the universality of the mask, its origin, forms, functions and materials, the visitor arrives in Africa: Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Congo, Zambia …, countries where the masks are characterized by their role of intermediary between on the one hand the vital forces of nature and the invisible entities and on the other hand the humans. The most important masked ceremonies are undoubtedly those which are part of the life cycle and those connected with the annual cycle of the seasons.

Continuing his journey, the visitor then makes a stopover in Asia where masks perform in plays and dances. It is a visit right into the heart of traditional theatre, puppet and shadow theatre in which the role of the mask is very often related to exorcism.

Next: the conquest of America. The masks’ history in America begins long before the arrival of the Conquistadores and the European colonists. The use of masks is different in North America, Central or South America. In North America, agricultural and propitiatory rites are particularly important, as well as totemism and shamanism. In Central and South America, with the exception of Amazonia where the use of the mask is strongly ritual, the mask is mainly worn in the framework of dances and represents evil, irreverent beings living on the margins of the Christian society.

Between Asia and America: Oceania. On this continent masks are almost exclusively used in Melanesia, so take this opportunity to make an island tour: New-Guinea, New Ireland, Vanuatu, New Caledonia…

Coming back to Europe… European masking traditions are unexpectedly rich. The use of masks within the European traditions dates back to the Paleolithic age. They often mark the end of winter or the beginning of spring.

Finally, the exhibition draws parallels between the different mask types. In doing so, it reveals the similarities of forms between the continents and provides evidence of the universal dimension of the mask.


  "Masks from around the world"