Accepted Paper:

Chapayeka masks: intention, agency, and power in the Yaqui Easter ritual  

Author:

Marianna Keisalo (Aarhus University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper looks at how intention, agency, and power are mediated in the masked performance of the Chapayekas, ritual clowns that represent Judas and the Roman soldiers in the Yaqui Easter ritual.

Paper long abstract:

This paper looks at how intention, agency, and power are mediated in

Chapayeka masked performance. The Chapayekas are ritual clowns that

represent Judas and the Roman soldiers in the Yaqui Easter ritual. They

wear masks that represent various Other beings, including foreigners,

animals, mythological beings, and even figures from TV and film. The

mask is considered to be a very powerful object, with its own capacity

for agency. The mask can help the performer endure the hard work of the

ritual, and is an integral part of the blessings this brings, but can

also be very dangerous if not handled correctly. A worst case scenario

would be the mask sticking to the performerÂ’s face permanently and

turning him into a ghost. In performance, a distinction between the

performer and mask must be maintained. The masks should not be touched

by the uninitiated, stared at, or photographed. New masks are made each

year, usually by the performers themselves, as at the end of the ritual

all but two are burned. As objects, the masks are respected, sometimes

feared, but also admired and enjoyed as skillfully made objects that

artfully depict the various figures. In this presentation I will discuss

how the power of the Chapayeka masks is created and controlled, the

efficacy this has within Yaqui ritual, and implications this has for

considering masked performance more broadly.

Panel P070
Collaborative revolutions: tracing the variety of responses to current art practices, objects and images