An enticing masquerade from Bolivia


Though all of us wear masks, for almost every occasion, they are largely invisible. Some other masks, however, are noticeable and come with cultural baggage that they acquire over time.

Just as there is a specific reason behind every mask that is worn in India, the same holds true in South America’s Bolivia which is all set to celebrate the Carnaval de Oruro (Carnival of Oruro). Oruro is a place in Bolivia where this festival is celebrated with traditional gaeity and fervour.

Dating back to more than 2000 years, the Carnaval de Oruro is a storehouse of oral and intangible heritage of that country. Lakhs come out on the street to watch the colourful spectacle created by the parade of 48 groups of folk dancers over a four kilometre route. During these celebrations, the dancers wear masks that have become the inspiration of Giancarla Muñoz Reyes, an independent character sculptor. Her miniature masks exhibited along with the paintings by Mamani Mamani, under the exhibition titled ‘Namaste India’ gives an insight into the creativity and imagination of the people of Bolivia. 

Displayed at the conference room of Instituto Cervantes, Giancarla’s miniature masks made of ceramic, attract attention due to their detailing. Though it is difficult to comprehend the names written beneath the masks such as Toba, Achachi, Pepino, etc, it is their carving that demands appreciation. A name that sounds familiar to a non-Spanish individual is ‘Lucifer’. “This mask is worn by dancers who perform Diablada,” explains Giancarla sharing that it “depicts a fight between the devil and angel. There are a lot of energetic movements and is directed by the angels. The seven sins of the Catholic tradition are also represented though this dance.”

There are also masks similar to that of clown faces (eg Chuta) and some others that evoke fear (specially Oso and Moreno). Giancarla’s artistic imagination is presented in a combination with photographs portraying men/women wearing costumes and masks during the carnival.

“In reality they are very heavy, especially Achachi, and I have also made them in their original size. But for this exhibition, I wanted to bring miniatures of all that would represent my country’s culture,” says the artist who is now exploring the Indian subcontinent for further inspiration. She is delighted to
have found some unusual masks in Tibet. 

Her co-exhibitor, Roberto, popularly referred to as Mamani Mamani across the globe is in India for the first time to exhibit his artworks. Done in striking bright colours, his painting of Mother Goddess is quite captivating. “For artists in Bolivia, the Sun and the Moon are very important,” he says pointing to two paintings depicting a typical Bolivian young girl and boy. “While the crescent-shaped moon represents the eyes of the girl, the full-circle of Sun can be spotted though the eyes of the boy.” The nose of both is inspired from the constellation of Southcross and is believed to be an  
important factor “for the life span of our ancestors,”
he adds.

Roberto also showcases some works from his animal series. Prominent among these are the one on horses which remind of the Bolivian independence from the “Spanish who came on horses. Another significant series is on mountains and all these total 36 in number,” informs Mamani Mamani whose works categorically remind of images from ancient fairy tales that come alive through his brush and natural colours.
The exhibition is on display at Instituto Cervantes, behind Hanuman Mandir, Connaught Place till February 27.  

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