Almost all human societies have Mask traditions where the wearer behaves in an altered way, for many years The Last Tuesday Society held monthly Masquerade Balls, several of Mr. Wynd’s are on display – including the one he made for The Fairy Tale Masked Ball based on Jean Cocteau’s Beast. Elsewhere are masks collected from Mexico, Eastern Europe, West Africa and New Guinea.
Masks in traditional societies tend to be a complete costume that covers the whole body, often made of raffia. When people put them on they can cease to exist. They become the blind servant, the slave of the mask. They do what the mask tells them to do; they dance as the mask instructs. There are masks for different occasions. Some punish minor social transgressions, like the woman who forgets to put the cooking fire out in the dry season. Others are for joyous occasions like births and marriages. And then there are the terrible masks that only come out in times of strife, for warfare, drought, death or worse. These are the masks that no one should see. If they come to the village people run screaming from them, lucky to escape with their lives. But such masks are very difficult to find these days. There are three things that they are said to particularly dislike: Christianity, Islam and the smell of gasoline.