“Smart” masks at the XXI International Mask Tradition Festival

The XXI International Mask Tradition Festival was held on February 15 and 16 in Līvāni, and this year the festival gathered 25 masked groups from Latvia, as well as guests from Belarus, Lithuania, Russia, Estonia and Cameroon, according to a Latvian Radio broadcast on February 18.

The two-day festival included traditional mask parades, Meteņi celebrations (a pagan holiday that coincides with the Christian pre-Lent season known as Shrovetide), masterclasses, a mask traditions show, as well as an international conference. Maked people, mummers, gypsies, maskers and other masked characters gathered to promote “smart” masks.

“I would say that the mask tradition is a sort of smart thing. It's not simply fooling around. It has its specific rules that must be followed – both in regards to appearance and actions, as well as behavior,” said Latvian Folklore Society Board Chair Andris Kapusts. uzvedībā.

People are most actively involved in the tradition around Christmas time, and those who have been themselves or been visited by people in the traditional masks can somewhat understand the festival atmosphere. The pranks each group pulls are based on a tradition, which is visible also in the masks.

Many of the participants come back every year for the festival to keep the traditions alive. Jānis Jasjukevičs has participated in all the mask tradition festivals (since 1999), but he's been part a men's mask group called “Kiligunda” for nine years.

“21 years ago when I was here the first time the maskers looked completely different. Every year we learn and find out something new. Us men don't go [parade in masks] only during the festival, but also during other times of the year,” said Jasjukevičs.

Dagda folklore group “Olūteņi” leader Inta Viļuma was at the festival for the 16th time with her collective. After her first visit she decided to explore the various traditions a bit further on her own. The furthest guests from Cameroon were introduced by Prince Issac Legrand. His group was visiting Latvia for the first time, and they saw many similarities with African masks. Legrand had brought his grandfather's mask with him, which has special historic and ritualistic meaning that is passed down through generations.

Every year the festival is organized by the folklore society in a different location along with local folklore enthusiasts. The festival was organized in Līvāni in cooperation with the folklore group “Ceiruleits” (“Lark” in Latgalian) and their leader Anna Kārkle. The organization doesn't rest, and has already begun working on organizing the XXII International Mask Tradition Festival in a yet undetermined part of Latvia.
 

Here's a look back at the 2018 festival:

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