Spencer Museum of Art The University of Kansas

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Rakshasa (Demon) chhau dance mask
  • India
  • Rakshasa (Demon) chhau dance mask, circa 1970s
  • Where object was made: West Bengal, India
  • paper, newsprint, clay, glue, synthetic feathers, pigment
  • Object Height/Width/Depth: 39.5 x 44.5 x 14.5 cm
    Object Height/Width/Depth: 15 1/2 x 17 1/2 x 5 11/16 in
  • Gift of Lilly Y. Tsubaki
  • Not on display
  • 2010.0095
Label Text

Exhibition Label:
"Conversaton XI: Pomp Up the Jam, Performance & Pageanty in Art," Jun-2011, SMA 2010-2011 Interns
Gesture & Performance
Pomp and pageantry can inspire, promote, and sustain a sense of community, as seen in this space. The works selected approach this topic from two different perspectives: from “on stage” and “on the sidelines.” In parades and ceremonies, participants-both performers and their audience-invest the public act with meaning. In Abel Sanchez’s Three Bent Figures, the Tewa Pueblo Indian dancers adopt the same pose because, for the Tewa, the collective motion of the group is more important and beautiful than that of a single dancer. In addition to coded gestures, a performer’s use of familiar props brings traditional narratives to life. The Rakshasa (demon) mask would have been used in Puruliachhau, an athletic dance-drama that enacts epic Indian tales with scripted postures, leaps, somersaults, struts, and stamps. The spectator extends the life of the performance beyond the scheduled event in the form of memory and reflection. Chinese papercuts, which are pasted in and around the home on special occasions such as weddings and Chinese New Year, are one colorful example. Fans of Peking Opera can recall their favorite plays by displaying papercuts of well-known characters, like the three shown here. Another example of the role of the spectator is found in Thomas J. Fitzsimmons’s photograph made in New York City on “Victory in Europe Day,” which marked the Allied Forces’ formal acceptance of the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany. Here, the proud figure of Sergeant Arthur Moore stands amidst the revelry’s debris, a reminder of how performances of pomp and pageantry may continue to linger in the heart of the spectator.