India & Himalayas

Unique mask from Tibet


Q:  I bought this from a guy who called it an “African” mask.  It’s a cloth hooded mask that fits over the head (you can see part of the red hood through the eye holes).  It’s got a distinctively Asian feel.  The cowrie shells on the face (and one hanging from a felt nose) are throwing me off a little.  Something about this mask looks vaguely familiar, but I can’t decide where I’ve seen anything like it.  Nothing similar is in any of my books.  I kind of feel like it might be some ethnic minority Chinese wedding mask or something, but it’s pure speculation.  Do you have any idea?  Aaron, 562

A: You’re on the right track. Rora-Reema is the ritual dance of the hunters performed before Tibetan operas. These characters are called moqua or hunters, who represent the Diju Washafani. At the end of the dance everyone tosses handfuls of seeds into the air to appease the gods and pray for the peace and prosperity of all. Sometimes called a Lhamo, Ngompa, or wedding mask. The mask appears to be flat but stretches out around the head easily. It is made of colored fabrics, embroidery, silk tassels, shells and yak hair with stiff backing and attached hood– a much different design than other masks from that culture. A-

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