Locally-constructed facial masks used by tribal communities in Madhya Pradesh, mukhada masks are made to celebrate seasonal festivals and ritual dances. Due to their use of locally sourced, perishable and inexpensive materials, each mask varies in characteristics from the other. Mukhada masks are difficult to preserve and have not been studied for their symbolic significance owing to the reverence with which they are held by their makers. They are similar, in many details of manufacture and use, to masks used by other central Indian tribes, like the baiga charita masks.
These masks are typically made from pumpkin or gourd skin, waste paper, wood and cardboard and have a pair of holes for the eyes. More recently, paper mâché has been used for their manufacture. The hollow of a gourd is used when the mask requires an elongated shape. Pumpkin seeds are used to depict the teeth of the animal or deity being represented, while moustaches and beards are produced with goat or bear fur. The mouth, nose and ears are usually affixed with beeswax. Bangles are used to highlight the eyes. Aluminium foil, gloss paper, glitter and bird feathers may be used for further decoration. Some of the masks are painted blood red, while others retain the natural colour of the materials. Designs representing an animal’s face may also be added.
The use of mukhada masks is limited to performances during festivals and ritual dances. As a functional art form, villagers get together to make their own masks a few days before such festivals or rituals are expected to take place.
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