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Motlow College exhibit examines Michoacán culture

Posted on Wednesday, November 14, 2012 at 9:54 am

This is one of many masks included in the Masks of Michoacán exhibit coming to Motlow College. The mask is made of copalillo wood and is worn during the dance of the viejitos (old men) in Tocuaro.

Mascaras de Michoacán, a collection of masks representing the Michoacán culture, will be displayed on the Motlow College Moore County campus from Nov. 26 through Dec. 7, according to Jeannie Brown, coordinator of international education at the college.

The public is invited to the exhibit’s opening reception, scheduled for 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Nov. 26 outside the Eoff Hall Art Gallery. Guests will be able to sample a variety of Mexican dishes before viewing the exhibit.

The masks, which represent all aspects of Michoacán culture, are made of wood, clay, metal, stone, feathers and vegetable by-products, with some including real hair, horns and teeth. Some believe the masks exert spiritual power, magical protection or supernatural powers over those who wear them, according to Francisco Rodriguez Onate, director of the Old Jesuit School in Patzcuaro, Michoacán.

“The masks of Michoacán are used during different types of celebrations, and the behavior of the masked dancer ranges from serious acting to mocking,” Onate said. “There are masks of grandfathers and of ugly men and of young women, and masks representing hermits, friars, clowns and devils…”

Jaime Hernandez Diaz, Secretary of Culture of the Government of the State of Michoacán, explained the importance of the collection: “An essential element of human ritual, these masks are particularly important because each one of them has played a role in ceremonial dances within communities that continue to keep alive the festivities and traditions inherited from their ancestors.”

The Masks of Michoacán exhibit is sponsored by the Tennessee Consortium for International Studies and has been displayed at universities in Tennessee and Kentucky. Motlow is the collection’s last stop before it is returned to the Mask Museum at the Old Jesuit School.

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