Q: I picked up this mask recently from an expat in Thailand. He bought it from the Chitwan region in Nepal. He said it is a reverse shaman mask. I believe the beard and eyebrows to be yak hair. It also has 2 yak teething measures L22cm x W12cm. Could you tell me anything about this? Dan, 806
A: This is easy to recognize as primitive folk art from Nepal. Whether or not it originated in the Chitwan region, I can’t tell. Has it been used, or was it made to sell to tourists? If the former, how old might it be? Can I say for sure it is a shaman’s mask, rather than a Hindu or Buddhist character? There are so many questions that need to be researched. The carver went to extremes in decorating this piece. He used leather, fur, metal, beads, shells and animal teeth. It also has a large comfort pad on the rear. None of these add-ons detract from the spiritual power of this mask.
Shortly after I posted this answer I noticed a similar mask on eBay. Most of the copy is applicable, but I think both masks were made recently for the tourist trade. C
REVERSE SHAMAN EXORCISM MASK
THE THARU PEOPLE INHABIT THE TERAI REGION OF NEPAL AND SOME AREAS OF TIBET AS WELL. SHAMANIC MASKS LIKE THIS ARE USED IN RELIGIOUS RITUALS, FESTIVALS AND EXORCISMS BY SHAMAN AND SOMETIMES BY BUDDHIST MONKS. THIS PIECE IS EVEN MORE RARE AND UNUSUAL BECAUSE IT IS REVERSE MASK, WHICH MEANS THAT IT HAS A PADDING ATTACHED TO THE INSIDE OF THE MASK WHICH ALLOWS THE SHAMAN TO WEAR IT EITHER ON TOP OR BEHIND THE HEAD SO THE HE CAN WEAR TWO MASKS AT THE SAME TIME. SHAMAN MASKS WERE ORIGINALLY DERIVED FROM THE TOTEM WORSHIPPING OF ETHNIC MINORITIES IN NORTH & WESTERN CHINA, MONGOLIA, NEPAL AND TIBET. THIS IS A VERY LARGE MASK, VERY SKILFULLY CARVED DEEP INTO THE WOOD GIVING THE MASK GREAT DEPT SO THAT IT CAN BE WORN ON THE FACE OR THE TOP OF THE HEAD. IT WAS CARVED FROM BODI WOOD. THE BODI TREE IS SACRED TO BOTH BUDDHIST AND THARU ANIMISTS AS WELL.