A sacred Buddhist dance mask from Bhutan; photo by Chris Rainier
Masks have played a role in cultures and societies almost since the dawn of humankind. Symbols of power, mystery, and disguise, they also can bring their users closer to nature, the spiritual world, and the realms of ancestors. The tradition of the mask is global, linking inhabitants of the steppes of Mongolia and the jungles of South America with Mexican celebrants of the Day of the Dead and First-Nation tribal dancers.
For more than 30 years National Geographic photographer Chris Rainier has been in search of the answer to why we wear masks. What began as a documentation of the traditional mask rituals of New Guinea developed into a voyage of discovery that took him around the world to document traditional masks and their widely varying uses.
As a result, Rainier experienced a unique opportunity to explore the ritual of donning a mask to become something more than just human. Highlighted by stunning images featured in his new book Mask, he unravels the primordial reason why we have been connected to masks across time.
Mask (Earth Aware Editions) is available for sale and signing.