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Postcard # 14: Asmat Mask

Masks were made and used by the Asmat peoples to represent their dead ancestors and allow them to pass on to Safan, the otherworld.


Grazina and her daughter were inspired by the idea of masks and masquerade.

On a trip to Vancouver, they visited the Museum of Anthropology and Grazina became inspired by the transformation masks made by First Nations Peoples. Here is an extract from her accompanying text 'A Study on Mask':

"I was particularly interested in the transformational masks. These are made up of an outer mask, usually representing an animal. At the appropriate moment in the ceremony a string inside the mask is pulled, the outer mask flies open and an inner mask is revealed of a different character, usually a human.... This Kwakwaka’wakw mask shows an outer human/bear face which splits open to reveal a human/killer whale face. The masks express the dual nature of a mythological hero in different states of mind."

"I thought I might like to make a transformational mask to tell a well-known story and perhaps update it, as usually happens in stories handed down through the generations. My daughter, who is an artist, was very enthusiastic and we thought the best thing was to make it simple, along the idea of the Russian dolls where you open a doll to find a smaller one inside and so on."

"Inside each mask is part of the story of Little Red Riding Hood told in modern form – on 'Dodofeed' (which might bear some passing resemblance to another messaging tool you may have heard of)."

Lots of people also created their own drawings and illustrations using this mask as a starting point.

Shaftesbury Clinic

Here is a closely observed drawing made during an art group session at the Shaftesbury Clinic, Springfield University Hospital:


Here is a one of Nico's amazing illustrations of the Asmat mask in action.