Topeng

A mask immediately transforms the whole personality of the wearer.

Children love wearing masks because beneath them they can behave differently, perhaps in a manner usually forbidden.

Klana-colour-picAdults too feel less inhibited if their faces are hidden, and whole schools of drama have been built up around the use of the mask.

Make-up is a form of mask, from the basic ‘face’ (many) women assume daily, to the extremes of face painting as an art form seen, for example, in Chinese Opera and the theatre of Japan.

Within Central Java the make-up assumed by dancers (and, interestingly, wedding couples) is strongly ritualised in an attempt to make their faces look as much as possible like the mask representing their character type.

Thus refined, ‘alus’ characters aspire to the Javanese ideal of beauty and coarser, ‘gagah’ dancers exaggerate their ‘unattractive’ features.