Masks have been used in many cultures all over the world. People have been using masks in celebrations, religious rituals, performances and for hunting for centuries. Miss B loves finding masks in art galleries and museums around the world, if you get the chance check out the cool ones in the Australian Museum in Canberra.
One of the oldest masks in the world is this stone mask from the pre-ceramic neolithic period, dating back to 7000 BC. It doesn’t look very fancy, not compared to the Mexican tiger mask next to it.
In Mexico, masks have been used for approximately 3000 years. According to the Pre-Colombian legend of Tona, each man and woman shares a common destiny with an animal counterpart.
All people shared a destiny with this animal, called a Tona, which matched their personality traits in some way. If someone is without food, the animal will go hungry; if the animal suffers injury, the human being will become ill; if the animal is killed, the human being will also die.
Tona (also Tono) is the Spanish term referring to these animal guardians or soul companions. Some popular animals that were chosen as a person’s tona were jaguars, ocelots, birds, bats, snakes and alligators.
After the Spanish people conquered the Mexican area other animals became used as mask inspiration, such as bulls, sheep, horses, deer and cats.
There are many celebrations and rituals in Mexico where Tona masks are worn.
Common materials that were used to make Mexican animal masks were wood, clay, metal, leather and wax. These could be decorated with feathers, goat hair, ribbon, even animal teeth.
Tona masks usually have a mixture of human characteristics and animal features.
The mouse mask above, has pointed, yellow ears with elliptical almond-shaped eyes, much more similar to that of a human that tiny beady mouse eyes.
That bright yellow mask almost looks comical, until you notice the lethally sharp horns that could gouge you like a hunting spear. I wonder what sort of ritual that one was used for?
5/6J are going to be making their own ‘Tona’ animal masks this term! We’ll need to start thinking about which animal we would like to represent us and our personalities…
A cheetah if you run fast? A dog if you are friendly? An owl if you like staying up late? A flamingo if you are good at dancing? There are thousands of possibilities.
After the masks are made we will definitely upload them to our blog for everyone to see. Can’t wait for our clay to arrive so we can get started!