Beautiful, elaborate, fierce, grotesque or elegant, masks are extraordinary objects that demonstrate the creative skills and aesthetics of many different periods and cultures.
Masks are a near-universal phenomenon, but their uses and meanings are strikingly different around the world. In ritual and religious use, as today in Africa or Oceania, mask- wearers may be thought to be possessed by – or even become – a spirit or a god. In ancient Egypt, funerary masks were intended to equip the dead with divine powers and attributes, while the masks used in Japanese Noh plays or in ancient Greek drama helped to portray character.
In this new edition of the classic book, eight leading experts explore the stories of masks across ancient and modern civilizations in a fascinating survey of their meaning and power. Illustrated with an array of masks from the British Museum and beyond, Masks: The Art of Expression provides a fascinating insight into the great variety of masks and masking traditions from around the world.
John Mack is Professor of World Art Studies at the University of East Anglia and was formerly Senior Keeper at the British Museum, where he remains an advisor for the Museum's Africa Programme. He is an internationally- recognized authority on the arts and cultures of Africa and has published extensively on many subjects, taking a broadly anthropological approach to art, material, culture and archaeology. His recent publications include Preserving the Cultural Heritage of Africa: Crisis or Renaissance? (James Currey Publications, 2008) and The Art of Small Things (The British Museum Press, 2007).