Nepalese wooden masks
Shamanist masks are used throughout the India Himalaya and Nepal. They represent animals, ancestors, deities and are worn at masked dance ceremonies so the wearer can to connect with the spirit, deity or caricature. They can be quite forbidding and tend to fall into two types - fierce or comic.
Wooden masks are sometimes placed at strategic places around the village such as streams or wells to keep away bad spirits. Many Himalayan masks are Buddhist, others may represent figures from the Hindu epics such as the Ramayana or local pre-Buddhist spirits. Some masks conform to familiar stereotypes but others are clearly the interpretation of the mask maker, who may be highly skilled or just an everyday man with a lump of wood and a chisel.
Grinning Mask from NepalThe use of masks in storytelling drama
Local theatrical dramas are often acted out with special costumes and masks. The stories are told time and again and usually involve the triumph of good over evil. They may be enacted in the hope of a good harvest or clement weather. The spirits of the mountains and forests must be appeased for the village to prosper. In these pages you'll find monkey masks, grinning skeleton masks......
When not in use, carved wooden masks may be hung above the hearth and acquire a smokey patina or they may be stored in a chest until the next time. They have a pleasant rich patina and are in excellent condition.
Like the Bhutanese mask in the photo above, this Tibetan mask is used in the Buddhist Cham dance festivals.