South America

Indian mask from SE Brazil

Q:  I’m looking for a mask from the Xingu River region.  I’m not sure what I’m looking for specifically, but I would love to see what there is!   Leah, 1102

A:  There are many Indian cultures in the huge Amazon region of Brazil.  Though I can’t find anything from the Xingu River area, this excellent Karajas piece come from the Araguaia River area in the Matto Grosso lowlands just to the west of the Xingu. It is a tall and elaborately decorated ijasó headdress with grass mask and skirt. They are always made in pairs, and represent spirits called by shamans to visit the Karajás’ villages.  Maybe someone who reads this will know more about masks from the nearby Xingu River area.

You can learn a little more about about Amazon Indian masks on pages 162-3 of Masks of the World, by Ibold and Yohn. There is also a specialized book, Arts of the Amazon, by Barbara Braun. Both are available on This ijaso mask can be found in the Smithsonian’s Native American collection.





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