The mask hides as much as it reveals, “denies as much as it affirms”, as Claude Lévi-Strauss asserted. Very often the holder of a secret, the mask conceals that which only the initiated should know.
The mask’s power also lies in its capacity to incarnate spirits, a link between man and his ancestors, between the visible and the invisible world. It is inseparable from a mythical context which structures the mode of existence and thought of the majority of traditional societies.
Central to the life of a group or a community, the mask, an indispensable intercessor, is always active.
Therapeutic exorcism mask, Sri Lanka, 19th-20th century, Wood, pigments, horsehair, Dim.: Height 35cm, width 34cm., 70.2003.22.2
Mask worn by healers during the tovil, an exorcism dance. The dancers, in return for benefit in kind or money, would come and dance in front of the patient to exorcise the evil spirit of the illness. They would wear a mask selected according to the illness to be cured. In the past, these ceremonies were common and were performed with a lot of pomp. Nowadays, these ceremonies are only performed in small villages.