The Ceremonial Masks of Bolivia

Bolivia Travel Book

During our visit to La Paz’s Museo de Etnografía y Folklore, our favorite exhibit was a temporary one, showcasing an astounding collection of the country’s ceremonial dance masks.

Masks are an essential part of Bolivian celebrations, allowing dancers to adopt the personalities which populate the country’s myths and legends. Demons, dragons and angels join representations of real-world creatures like bears and beavers. Most interesting are the masks based on characters from Bolivian history, such as caricatures of Spanish matadors, and African slaves brought over to work in Potosí’s mines. The latter are depicted with bulging eyes and extended tongues — conditions which the slaves, who suffered terribly with altitude sickness, were actually afflicted with.

Andean and Amazonian masks join those from the Chaco and the country’s eastern lowlands, in an incredibly thorough presentation of over fifty. Enjoy our exhaustive set of pictures! (Note: photography are normally not allowed, but you can purchase permission at the museum entrance).

Website of the Exhibit

This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. Brad Powell

    WOW ! Not going to sleep tonight, these masks are far worse than my “scary clown” dreams !

  2. Tess

    Great post, amazing photos! This makes me wanna visit Bolivia again, it´s an amazing country!

  3. Lilly

    We recently found an (maybe) old probably South American mask in an attic. It looks to have real horns on top of carved wood. It’s features a winged cherub sitting above the face of a man. His teeth jut out in front of mouth and he has pointed ears. His face is surrounded by hair. We’re dying to know more about it!

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