9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN07 Sociology of Culture

2009-09-03 09:00:00 2009-09-03 10:30:00 Thursday, 3 September 09:00 - 10:30 Cultural Heritage Building II, C4.07

Masks as Important Elements of European Cultural Heritage

Mask is one of the most ancient human creations and belongs to the most impressive elements of cultural heritage in different cultures. Several discoveries prove the use of masks long before people started to cultivate the earth. Throughout history masks have been used for different purposes, which caused different consequences.

Originally the mask represented a phantasmal creation, which was connected with demoniac manifestations. In archaic societies people?s use of masks in rites enabled their empathic identification with the creatures, whose masks they were wearing, their use in battles raised the warriors? self-confidence, while their use in funerary art was meant to enable the dead people to keep their natural look and to return to the world, which they had left.

Mask enables a radical change of the identity by covering the person?s face, which is the best visible indicator of his/her personality. Because of that mask has appeared in every culture from the most archaic to the most developed ones. Its main function is not to hide people?s essence, but to reveal it and to demonstrate all impulses that ordinarily have to be hidden or repressed because of the demands of the social environment.

The identity change in ritual is complete (and because of that it is also associated with tensions, fear, and anxiety), while its change in theatre and carnival is only partial. The masked person is conscious of his/her real personality and of the temporariness of such transformations.