Europe

Strange masks from Basque country

Q: Hi, I am Basque from the Spanish Basque Country, do you know anything about Basque masks? We have some in our traditions. Fernando, 1563

A: I know nothing about Basque masks. So I looked around the internet and found these four crazy masks from the the appropriate region of Northern Spain. All four seem to be photographed at local carnivals. Perhaps you could do some research, and maybe one of our viewers will have something to contribute as well.

5 Comments

  • Aaron Fellmeth

    There are some great masquerades in Basque country. As in many countries, masks in Spain vary from town to town, with each town having its own archetypes. The best survey of Spanish (and Portuguese) masquerade is unfortunately only available in Spanish:

    Oscar J. González, Mascaradas de la peninsula ibérica (2014)

    It describes and depicts many if not all of the masquerading traditions of Basque country, as well as everywhere else in the Iberian peninsula. If you read Spanish, the book is a treasure trove of culture.

  • Bob Ibold

    Thanks for the helpful comment. I went to 2nd Face but couldn’t find any Basque masks. If you have one would you send a scan with comments and I’ll post it.

    • Aaron Fellmeth

      Hi, Bob,

      Masks like those don’t circulate on any market anywhere in the world. I’ve never been to Euskadi, so the Museum’s collection does not yet include any. We are planning an expedition to the French Basque country, probably in 2021, to film a Basque masquerade and possibly acquire one for the collection. The problem is that frequently there is only a single masked character in Basque masquerades (Basquerades?), and that mask and costume belong to the village rather than any one person. For reasons you can well imagine, they would not part with it under any circumstances.

  • Fernando

    Hi both, it’s me again. I’ve been a member of a traditional group of Basque dances for 25 years, that is why I know the Basque culture quite well. There are some different masks in different villages and provinces in both parts of the Basque Country (in the French part and in the Spanish part). You can see them in internet writing this village names: Unanue (Navarre, name of the mas-men is Mamuxarroak), Otsagabia or Ochagavia (Navarre, the name of the mask is Bobo), Uztaritze (in Lapurdi, province of French Basque Country, the name of the mask-men are Kotilun Gorriak and Ponpierak)…. they are the most famous Basque masks, but there are more. Faithfully, Fernando.

  • Fernando

    The Basque mask named Bobo (From Otsagabia, Navarre) is a character who dances on 8th of September every year in that village. It is a ritual dance, previously pagan, nowadays christian, in honour of the virgin of Muskda (a small church in the Basque Pyrenees). There is just one person dancing with that mask being the rest of dancers non-mask characters. It is a curious mask because it has two faces like the Roman god Jano.
    The mask of Unanua (also in Navarre province), is called mamuxarro and is weared by young males of that village in carnivals (in Basque yotiak or Inauteriak)
    The Basque mask called Kotilungorri belong to some characters of the Basque Carnivals of Lapurdi (Labourd) in the North part of the Basque Country, currently belonging to the French state.

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