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|This mask – part of a collection used to stage the epic Ramayana – depicts the Hindu god Ganesha, who is widely known and popularly worshipped in South and Southeast Asia. Although he has a human body, Ganesha has the head of an elephant. The god Shiva rejoined his wife, the mountain goddess Parvati, after a long absence, and, failing to recognize their son, beheaded him when the lad refused him entry to Parvati’s chamber. Shiva promised to replace his son’s head with that of the first creature he saw and almost immediately, a majestic elephant came out of the forest and presented himself to the god. Living elephants are associated with Ganesha, while the god himself is credited with the sagacity and ability to overcome obstacles ascribed to elephants. |
Masked dance dramas are an important religious expression in India and Nepal. When he puts on the mask, the dancer assumes the deity’s “face;” the deity is embodied by the dancer who receives offerings and veneration.
• BODY ART: MARKS OF IDENTITY. AMNH, NEW YORK, NY. November 1999 - May 2000