HISTORICAL JOURNEY OF MASKS IN DIFFERENT CULTURES
Masks have travelled throughout our history in different forms. It was sometime during the 15th century that the ‘Masquerade Ball’ came to be, gaining quick popularity in Venice, Italy; however, its origins come from West Africa – so we know that masking oneself wasn’t just limited to a specific region or culture. The Masquerade Ball was a formal event where participants dressed up wearing flamboyant masks and indulged in dancing and drinking. At one point, such dances were especially conducted for entertaining royalty; then, this tradition started evolving and adapting to diverse heritages. Be it Italy, France, Egypt, or even Morocco, and many more countries, masks have always played a significant traditional role in greeting, gaming, and socializing.
Fashion runs in a circle, where the waves of demand and occasion keep it moving, producing trends and techniques for fresh attires. And masks have been an integral part to ooze that mysterious, gothic, spiritual, playful, or romantic vibe from time to time. So many epochs and characters have immortalized certain masking trends that would forever be remembered.
MASKS IN ALL THEIR GLORY
From the Victorian era to various global traditions, to pop culture accessories, to practicality – masks are omnipresent. I have some of my personal favourites among these several forms that have really amazed me. For instance, the monochrome half-faced mask from the ‘Phantom of the Opera’ is remarkably alluring with a touch of mystique. So are all the Victorian Ball masks – along with hiding the identity of the royal wearer, they were also a bold statement of emotions, and freedom of speech. The French took the creativity ahead with masks that radiated seduction and became an important part of their public appearance. And no one can deny the titillation of the veiled masks of Moroccan bellydancers that tease you while creating a dazzling persona. Another mask I saw was in Jim Carrey’s movie ‘The Mask’ that made the wildest imaginations come alive! And I swooned over the secretive attraction of Batman’s superhero mask! With the masks in Star Wars, innovation was given another height altogether, creating characters that are popular among kids and adults alike. And in fantasy, a fabulous gothic enticement is created by the masks in the world of vampires. It’s precisely because of all this that I love the festival of Halloween – I love to see people donning different masks, transforming themselves and the world around them. Finally, in the real world today, masks are one of the most important essentials for medical workers that protect both them and their patients.
THE CALLING OF COVID-19
The intrigue that masks hold throughout history is tremendous, but the human race is facing a complete contrast with the chaotic utility of masks in 2020. Nobody would’ve thought that the current need for masks will actually remind us of the mayhem of the influenza pandemic of 1918 whose first cases were documented in the US, and then in France, Germany, the UK, eventually spreading out in Spain – it affected around 1/3rd of the world’s population overall. Today, this Covid-19 pandemic has triggered the same fear, severity, and aftermath of a disastrous health crisis. CO for Corona, VI for Virus, and D for disease made up the name for the novel coronavirus or 2019-nCoV. Covid-19 is a mutated form of the family of viruses related to SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), and common colds. It affects all age groups, showing different symptoms from mild to moderate, and most of the infected patients can recover without hospitalization. Although, the protocol of combat against it made the mask-culture emerge as a necessity for safety. At the time of Covid-19’s origin in China, one couldn’t fathom that it will take such a monstrous, lethal form in just a few months. And now, cases of a new Kawasaki virus have emerged among the coronavirus infected youngsters, adding to the havoc and presenting a volatile picture again. The dynamic shift around the globe presented two opposing aspects – one, where humans were battling for health and survival, and the other, where our nature got its much-needed break from reckless human consumption and started healing.
Being a compulsive fashion enthusiast, I have always been fascinated with masking styles – the mystery of shrouding your face in a layer of fabric, with just a visible hint of your beauty is extremely appealing. Never did I imagine we shall see a day when it would come down to fortifying our faces with a mask as defence against a grave health concern. On a lighter note, people now appear to view it as an unusual style statement so as to accept and remember these terrible times in some sort of positive light for the years to come. When mankind is battling this war for health, each of our frontline guards have surfaced like The Last Samurai standing, being our knights in masked armour. They’re like a mother to whose arms a child runs in times of adversity. These warriors act as a wall of masked faces around us, protecting us from terrible pain and illness. Time and again, masks have risen to endorse protection, worship, and peace towards tragedies. They say when life gives you lemons, make lemonade – similarly, the dark necessity of masking oneself was swivelled into appearing brighter by many fashion brands, promoting it as a fun and trendy accessory, at the same time pressing its exigency. This manifestation has made our journey substantially bearable.
DON’T WAIT FOR THE STORM TO PASS, LEARN TO DANCE IN THE RAIN
When it came to playing along with the “new” culture of masks, many brands delved into action by introducing new lines of clothing with matching masks. And just like that the profound business started to seem like a little bit of fun. Brands offering evening attires ranging to casual shirts and dresses were now matching them with masks, to the extent that even the wedding dresses are now paired by using the same lace and embroidery to fabricate glamorized masks. What I surmise from this is that fashion holds the power to turn things around and provide us with the slightest ray of joy amongst perilous clouds of dullness. Donning a suitable mask with casual attire can be a no-brainer as casual-wear complements a range of random accessories, but with office formals, you need to consider the colour-combination of the mask with your outfit. As we know masks have been a complementing accessory in resort wear, with matching bikini and bandana for a long time now. However, formal party dresses are a new narrative, as it requires a conscious choice of the befitting ornamental mask. For running errands, a simple blue surgical mask would work well which can be utilized at home too. The sole point to be considered in this case is that the utility of the mask shouldn’t be compromised.
BEAUTY LIES IN THE EYES OF THE BEHOLDER
‘Silence is golden’ – I was taught this age-old adage since childhood, making me a woman who’s sharp with her words, with a no-nonsense attitude. I recognized that on many occasions, staying calm, allowing silence to provide clarity is a pearl of wisdom not many possess. If you can do this, it evinces prodigious level of maturity. Tough times need resilient people who can be a voice for the helpless, a direction for the clueless. Instead, people today are just making indiscernible loud noises in crowds under the guise of voicing their opinions. I strongly feel that elocution should be left to the experts to lead this movement ahead with the silence and peace that the world needs. Mask your life, mask your thoughts, and mask your minds from the unnecessary clamour that is around causing more panic. ‘Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder’ is the line that comes to my mind time and again, and such catastrophic and exigent times need additional beauty to intensify positivity and mindfulness for our health, thought process, and actions towards each other. As John Lubbock once said, “What we see is mainly determined on what we’re looking for. If we look at a field, a farmer will see crops, a geologist will see fossils, a botanist will see flowers, and sportsmen will see a playing ground. Though we are all looking at the same thing, we are really not seeing the same.” Today when we are masking our faces, let’s open our eyes wider and look at all the good that can feed our soul with positivity. Let’s coerce our eyes to see that around us. Let them descry the goodness and beauty in others, and speak the language of love, kindness, positivity, atonement, and amendments. Let’s mask our hatred and negativity towards each other, nature, animals, and the environment. Yes….yes black lives matter, animal lives matter, global warming is real, the planet needs saving, and natural calamities have to be measured correctly. But right now, we have bigger and stronger wars to conquer and the best way to fight this together is by silencing our aggression. Let’s mask our minds along with our faces. Let’s fight this war not only by being fashion warriors but also by being masters of peaceful manifestation.
RISE ABOVE THE STORM AND YOU WILL FIND SUNSHINE!