DEMONSTRATION OF HUMANITY
The impulse to create art is one of the defining signs of humanity. Before we, as humans, sought to vent our artistic impulse on subterranean cave walls, we painted on our faces and bodies. By doing so, we’ve demonstrated our humanity and set ourselves apart from the world of the animals. What’s more, in cases where cultures lacked a written language, the pictures and symbols we drew on our faces and bodies were rich in meaning and told our stories as a unique people.
This is the underlying inspiration and theme for which both the Bulwagan Foundation Trust and Filipino Artists in New Zealand have chosen in naming a fundraiser aligned to the Phil-ippine cultural dances that will be performed this September and October during the Festival of Carnivale of the Rugby World Cup 2011.
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NOT THE EXCEPTION
The record of human history reveals that this particular human behavior has served in many various and diverse cultures as rites of passage, in festivals, as marks of status and rank, symbols of religious and spiritual devotion, decorations for bravery, sexual lures and marks of fertility, pledges of love, punishment, amulets and talisman, protection and also as the marks of outcasts and convicts.
Face painting is considered to be an important tradition among many cultures. Just look at how we decorate ourselves. In our own society in New Zealand today, regardless of ethnic back-ground or origin, women paint their faces every day. It has even become fashionable for some men to do it. But they are not the exception.
In one tribe in Ethiopia and the nomadic Wodaabe people in the Sahel, it’s the men who paint their faces. Men of the ancient Celts and the American Apache and Comanche Plains Indians painted their faces when going into battle. The Ifugao of the Philippine Mountain Provinces, highland tribes of Papua New Guinea, the Australian Aboriginal People, the Māori, the Ainu of Japan, the Native Americans tribes of the Pacific Northwest, the Seminole, the Keralans of India who perform the Kathakali, and many others to this day all think of decorating their faces as being attractive. In even one extreme, a few cultures use scarring to decorate their faces and bodies.
CELEBRATION OF LIFE
Face and body art is a visual language. There is no culture in which people do not, or did not paint, pierce, tattoo, reshape, or simply adorn their faces and bodies. Fashions change and forms of body art come and go, but people everywhere do something or other to “package” their ap-pearance.
It is worth noting that attractiveness is expressed differently in different cultures. Attractiveness is also in the eye of the individual beholder. Even as face and body art is such an obvious way of signaling cultural differences and diversity, there is one commonality – it celebrates life in all its forms and is always engaging.
And while its messages and meanings only make sense in the context of culture, it has the greatest potential for transforming a person into something else. It allows people to reinvent themselves – to play and experiment with new identities. Like performance artists and actors, people in everyday life use face and body art to cross boundaries of gender, national identity, and cultural stereotypes.
So even while we all may be different in one sense or other, we are really all the same. So we invite you to join our Maskara Paint Your Face Photo Contest Fundraiser and show your friends and the world at-large your painted faces!
Do come and visit us at our facebook.com/maskarapaintyourface page.