The Himalayas are home to a very rich and
diverse variety of tribal and shamanic art. Yet, this aspect of
Himalayan culture is under appreciated and indeed, little known.
The shamanic and tribal art of the Himalayas has only begun to
make it presence felt in the tribal art world within the last 20
to 25 years. Even up to the present the fantastic tradition of
middle hills art and ritual is constantly over shadowed by the
better known Hindu and Buddhist art, for which the area is so
This old mask is the face of the "lato"
or idiot / joker. The trickster character that amuses and
perhaps teaches basic social truths through his comical
interaction during rituals by engaging with other masked
characters and audience members. The person who plays the lato in the village dramas will often be quite inebriated by
performance time. For that matter, "performance time" is often
not some specific, and well scripted part in the ritual, but
rather whenever the whim to assume the role overtakes him.
Needless to say, an advanced state of intoxication can make one
a natural for the role of "idiot" or fool. Don't try this
at home. The fact is, the reason you find so many middle
hills masks that are broken or repaired is because the maskers
often get so drunk they fall over "breaking their face".
Of course its all part of the mad-capped hijinks and only serves
to heighten the entertainment value for most of the village
Please see the detail photos accessible from
the link above. The mask is in quite good shape, but does
have a crack on the chin, and a repair to the back side at the
top. Neither of these diminish the comical countenance nor
threaten the structural integrity of the piece.