1. To learn about different cultrues through their masking traditions.
2. To tie into the Social Studies and English curricula and offer an
interdisciplinary way of looking at world studies.
3. Experiment with a variety of mask making media.
4. Develop a sense of 3-D.
5. To encourage creativity
First, physically describe the mask so that someone who is blind could
Answer these questions: (Note: this is done cold - there are no right
or wrong answers. Questions are arranged from material to esoterical)
1. What is this mask made out of? How was it made? what tools were used
to make it?
2. Where does it come from. How old is it? How dies it reflect place and
3. What was the mask used for? (ceremonial, theatre, funerary, fun, etc.
Please be specific and try to describe the use).
4. Who wore the mask? (man, woman, child) What was their profession?
Living or dead? etc.
5. What sort of character would the masquerader become when he or she put
on the mask?
6. What sorts of noises and movements would accompany the wearing of the
7. What values might have been placed on the mask? (Monetary, religious,
8. Has the meaning or usage of this mask changed over time, either within
or outside the cultrul in which it was made?
9. What personal associations does the mask conjure up?
10. What does this mask tell you about the people who made it?
(Lifestyles, beliefs, skills, etc.)
11. If this were your mask, what would you do with it?
We used masks from our study collection from Africa, Japan, Eskimo, New
Guinea. You could use prints, go to a museum, etc. After students had
done the work (usually in teams) we discussed their answers and they were
given known information.
The subsequent units were on:
1. Death Masks - Egyptian sarcophagal masks & Pre-Columbian burial
masks. We discussed burial customs, beliefs in the after-life and the
process of creating the death masks. I think everyone can find plenty of
Egyptian info! As for Pre-Columbian, the burial rituals were quite
similar (also the Chinese). It is the belief in an after-life that
probably made the concept of human sacrifice so palatable to the
Pre-Columbians. It was considered honorable to give up one's life for
the good of the community, and the souls of the sacrificed went to a
special "heaven". Using plaster-guaze
mask-making techniques, students created their own death masks.
2. Theatre Masks - Greek and Roman theatre masks and Japanese Noh theatre
masks. Noh drama originiated in religious dances, which by the mid-14th
century became a type of music drama utilizedltilzed by the Budhist
religion. Masks were required by the principal actors or shite. European
theatre - mystery plays, Commedia dell'Arte. Carnival/Mardi Gras.
Lambourne, Lionel, Madamae Tussaud's Book of Victorian Masks, New York:
E.P. Dutton, 1987. Info on European masking.
Student created terra cotta theatre masks using mythology as topics.
3. Spirit Masks - African, New Guinea, Native American (north and south)
Students created cardboard & papier mache spirit masks, including natural
fibers, shells, etc.
Ladislas Segy, Masks of Black Africa, New York Dover Publications, 1976
Terms for spirit mask include
Ancestor Worship - Belief that the spirits of ones acnsectors will watch
over and aid members of the society.
Animism - The belief that objects contain living spirits or living qualities
Ideology - The result of man's encoutner with exteranl reality and the
justification for rituals.
Ritual - Acts performed to invoke preternatural entities. It cast
spiritual prayers into the viislbe world. A means of calling/requesting
powers to do mans' will.
While this is not a complete curriculum, it gives you an idea. There are
plenty of books and slide shows on masking avaialable in educational
Just a couple of additional thoughts. The mask were displayed, with
labels and the school and the museum. Students were able to use the
masks as extra credit in some of their classes.