Masks are an essential part of some cultures I’ve visited on my travels. I have a small collection of amazing masks that are not only beautifully crafted but represent a deep cultural and spiritual tradition. This is just one example of superb workmanship and brilliant painting.Indonesia is one of many countries whose cultures actively participate in mask creation. In some cases masks are held sacred and believed to contain resident spirits.
A couple of years ago I was invited to a tiny village where an extremely valuable collection of sacred masks was being brought out and blessed. There were many Hindu priests and devotees who carefully cleaned and handled the masks. I saw an older gentleman openly weep when he picked up one of the masks… as if it were a symbol of deity itself.
There were also famous dancers from the region who were invited to perform dances that these masks were made for. Of course all of the participants prayed and were blessed by the priest before each performance. I was amazed by the devotion displayed by all of the people. Villagers of all ages attended the ceremony.
A wonderful group of musicians performed the traditional music for each dance with great vitality. I was able to film all of this and was grateful to witness this amazing scene. Some dances are truly “trance dances” where the performer takes on the spirit from the mask to tell stories and convey messages to those watching. In one case a few weeks ago I was in an isolated village in Bali and witnessed such a trance dance. The evil witch “Rangda” appeared and was obviously deep in trance. He carried a handkerchief in his left hand… he charged into a crowd of people at the temple and anyone who was touched by the handkerchief instantly fell down into a trance and had to be carried out to the priest to calm them down and bring them “back to earth”… it was pretty wild.