At the Bahoda mask festival in India, people dress up as characters from myth. But I wanted to have real people in real situations – as well as a rat
In 2014, I was working in rural Maharashtra, in western India, when I heard about the Bahoda festival, in which papier-mache artists create masks of characters from Hindu and tribal myth. People are chosen to wear them and are consecrated by a priest, after which they “become” their characters and parade through their village over several nights.
The masks are spectacular. But I began to wonder why what is represented in rituals is often so idealised. Why are there no people with grey hair or big noses? Why is no one wearing spectacles? Why can’t routine gestures, such as sweeping the floor, be enacted too, as opposed to the drama of slaying a demon?
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