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Masks from Ecuador

Masks and masked figures account for an ancient tradition in full force in Ecuador and the Andean world. Organized In conjunction with the Embassy of Ecuador in Chile, as part of the Bicentennial celebrations of the two republics in 2010, the exhibition Masks from Ecuador featured 245 objects that are part of the exceptional collection of masks, costumes and masked figures belonging to the Museum of the Central Bank of Ecuador. Contextualizing their uses and meanings through visual and audio materials, the exhibition depicted the relationship between human beings and masks in America from the Stone Age to the present, revealing the different types of masks manufactured and used in Ecuado in the indigenous and popular worlds since the country´s early beginnings.

The mask, along with the costume, is a central element of the Ecuatorian popular tradition, necessary to perform certain dances representing a mythological creature, an animal, ancestors, the devil or simply the clown, mestizo or indigenous, present in all the country´s celebrations.

Ecuador’s hunter-gatherers wore masks to trap the animal’s spirit before a hunting expedition, during their rites and ceremonies and religious festivities, and for at least 6000 years they manufactured a variety of gold, silver and ceramics funerary masks with multiple representations of life and death, some of which were shown at the exhibition.


In Inca times, during ritual and religious representations the priest wore a different mask for each ceremony. In cultures of the coast of Ecuador, there is a continuity in the production and use of funerary and ritualistic masks until the arrival of the Spaniards in 1534. in the Amazon, masks and funerary urns with masks are still present.

As part of a costume, masks represent Andean sacred animals (jaguar, monkey, deer, bear, fox, different birds, etc.) linked to propitiatory rituals and were made of furs and feathers which today have been replaced by other materials. The use of masks is part of the Andean culture and reached as far as the northern and central region of Chile. The costumes worn during Catholic religious festivities are a hallmark of the merging of the indigenous and Hispanic cultures.

Masks give a supernatural identity to its wearer, whether for funeral purposes-covering the face of the dead to prepare them for their journey to the afterlife- or to protect the living from evil spirits, to adopt the spirit of gods or ancestors, or borrow the attributes of certain animals.

Masks also allow people to conceal their own identity and take on another. In Ecuador, masks are still worn during different holiday contexts: New Year, April Fool’s Day, Carnival, etc.

June 11, 2010 | August 22, 2010
Monday to Sunday | 09:00 to 19:30
Andes Hall | Level -3



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Catálogo online
Reservados todos los derechos de esta publicación Catálogo editado con motivo de la exposición: Máscaras del Ecuador © Centro Cultural La Moneda Santiago de Chile. Junio, 2010. Estado: Agotado en tienda, disponible sólo para consulta online. P...