Notes Britannica: Masks

27th October 2021

Words in black = general information / Words in black bold represent important to assignment / Red words are my own notes relating to me working out the assignments theory, objectives etc…

Fig. 1 Carnival mask

The Britannica website provided a wealth of information on the topic of masks. The post was very interesting and covered the following topics:

  • General characteristics
  • The making of masks
  • The wearing of masks
  • The role of the spectator
  • Meaning and aesthetic response
  • Preservation and collection
  • The functions and forms of masks
  • Social and religious use
  • Funeral and commemorative uses
  • Therapeutic uses
  • Festival uses
  • Theatrical uses

The extracts that I have taken from the Britannica post are those that relate to my work for Assignment 5.

mask, a form of disguise or concealment usually worn over or in front of the face to hide the identity of a person and by its own features to establish another being. This essential characteristic of hiding and revealing personalities or moods is common to all masks. As cultural objects they have been used throughout the world in all periods since the Stone Age and have been as varied in appearance as in their use and symbolism.

General characteristics

Among the substances utilized are woods, metals, shells, fibres, ivory, clay, horn, stone, feathers, leather, furs, paper, cloth, and corn husks. Surface treatments have ranged from rugged simplicity to intricate carving and from gaudy adornments to polished woods and mosaics.

The mask – FEATHERS representing a peacock which symbolises beauty and worship.

Masks generally are worn with a costume, often so extensive that it entirely covers the body and obscures the wearer’s recognizable features. Fundamentally the costume completes the new identity represented by the mask, and usually tradition prescribes its appearance and construction to the same extent as the mask itself. Costumes, like the masks, are made of a great variety of materials, all of which have a symbolic connection with the mask’s total imagery Mask and costume are best understood as a unit and in performance.

Costume N/A it will be naked body, the lack of a costume representing the unknown identity I hide: ugliness and vulnerability.

Masks with human features are classified as anthropomorphic and those with animal characteristics as theriomorphic. In some instances the mask form is a replication of natural features or is quite realistic, and in other instances it is an abstraction.

The wearing of masks

In some respects he plays the role of an actor in cooperation or collaboration with the mask. Without the dance and posturing routines that the mask wearer performs, often to the accompaniment of music, the mask would remain a representation without a full life-force. The real drama and power of its form is the important contribution of the wearer. Covered by the mask and costume, the performer loses his previous identity and assumes a new one. Upon donning the mask, the wearer sometimes undergoes a psychic change and as in a trance assumes the spirit character depicted by the mask. Usually, however, the wearer skillfully becomes a “partner” of the character he is impersonating, giving to the mask not only an important spark of vitality by the light flashing from his own eyes but also bringing it alive by his movements and poses. But often the wearer seems to become psychologically one with the character he is helping to create.

The masks represents the false identity that I portray to the world around me. Hair, make-up giving a confident face to the world, one that takes pride in the ’artistic’ features that I portray.

When I put on my ’mask’ I do take on a psychological change of Confidence Respect and Love for myself.

The role of the spectator

This basic aspect of the mask is understood at least in essence by everyone.

Meaning and aesthetic response

Masks, therefore, that have a closely comparable appearance in several unrelated groups in quite different parts of the world often have totally dissimilar meanings and functions. It is thus practically impossible to determine either the meaning or use of a mask by its appearance alone.

The peacock mask should be more assessable in meaning?? RESEARCH PEACOCKS SYMBOLISM IN OTHER CULTURES

The functions and forms of masks

Other masks are used on festive occasions or to portray characters in a dramatic performance and in reenactments of mythological events.

The performance for this assignment involves showing various aspects of my life which are hidden from all outside viewers. Including everyday jobs around the house, mental health problems, the state of the environment I live in due to mental health etc…


iStock photo (2021) Carnival mask [Photograph] At: (Accessed 27.10.21)



Wingert, P.S. (2021) Mask, face covering. At: (Accessed 27.10.21)

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