Abstract Carvings and Balinese Masks

In modern society, masks are seen as a way to cover up something, whether it is an ugly face or an ugly personality. We take these masks for granted and see them as a material thing to be used and played with. In some parts of the world and particularly in Bali, however, masks are sacred. They are more than just a material that is carved or designed. They are important and even have a life of their own. Each mask has its own personality, own characteristic and own story to tell.

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What are the Balinese masks?

These masks in Bali have a life that takes over the person wearing them. Whoever wears the masks takes on the personality of the masks. Each mask, the natives and the elderly say, has a magical force that overcomes the human wearing it.

Mask-wearing is done in various ceremonies and religious rituals. However, don’t take this lightly. Mask wearing in Bali is not the same as mask wearing in the Western world where just about anyone can wear a mask.

In Bali, wearing these masks in a ritual invokes a power stronger and more powerful than the man himself. These masks should be taken seriously and one should be careful when wearing or handling a carved masks.

Where are the masks used?

Not only are these special masks used in rituals and ceremonies. They are also used in different dramas and dances. These masks give the performer a spirit for him to act out or dance the power of the mask. The dances that the Balinese do are a form of devotion to their gods. As they dance with the mask on, they take on the personality of the mask.

For example, once a man wears the mask of an old man, he takes on the character of the old man. He starts to walk slowly with his back hunched, his steps turn tentative and his gait drastically slows down. He becomes the mask he’s wearing…in every way.

There is a well-known carver in Bali who when asked how he makes his masks replied that each mask is crafted and done with a dance in mind. Each mask carved is done with the song and dance movements in thought. So each mask produced has its own unique story, character and purpose.

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So, if you are planning to go to Bali anytime in the near future, don’t forget to look out for the ritualistic mask dances. There are masks especially made for tourists like you and such masks make great souvenirs or gifts to friends. If a trip to Bali is not part of your plans, you can still get these unique Balinese masks through direct wholesalers of Balinese crafts; such wholesalers also sell silver jewelry, Balinese sarongs, beach dresses, fashion accessories, and other handcrafted products from Bali.

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