Behind the Tatanua Mask Look into the Eye of an Ancestor Essay

Of all the ways to learn about the culture of the people living centuries ago, analyzing their visual art must be the most exciting and at the same time the most deceptive one, with a constant threat of making a misinterpretation. However, when it comes to something as exotic as the Tatanua masks, it is not the context but the bizarre shapes that one notices instantly. Taking a closer look at the Tatanua mask, one might find out why these artworks arrest people’s attention immediately.


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I selected the given work because of its specific authentic look. In contrast to the rest of the artworks, this one bears the air of the ancient civilizations, even though the real Tatanua culture is not that old. It was the unusual, almost frightening, atmosphere of something alien to the European culture that made me pick the Tatanua mask to discuss in the paper.

One of the first things that fall into the eye immediately is the fact that the mask is made of quite different components that one can hardly think of mixing. For example, the wooden basis of the mask, in which the intimidating face is carved, contrasts quite sharply with the shuck which the skull is made of.

However, the painted shell which the eyes of the mask are made of looks rather natural together with the rest of the elements. Creating a distinct tribal effect and adding to the air of a lost civilization or an ancient tribe, the Tatanua mask makes quite an impression.

However, the most distinct and recognizable element of the Tatanua mask is the cast of colors. The Tatanua mask is generally of a rather mild, faded-out tint of grey and brown, which looks rather natural and adds the ethnic flavor to the mask.

Nevertheless, the bright red color and the use of black makes the entire artwork look rather weird and reminds of the “call of the wild,” the element that addresses the beastly part of human nature. The sharp teeth add to the overall impression, and the prolonged ear lobes make the Tatanua mask look absolutely exotic, filling it with all kinds of tribal legends.

It is important to add that the Tatanua mask is the work of art belonging to the Malaysian culture and being a part of a very specific tradition of one of the Malaysian tribes. The key function of the Tatanua mask is to serve as one of the necessary elements of a death rite, the custom which was aimed at paying the tribute to the diseased. Worn during the performance of the death rite dance, the mask was further on to be destroyed, thus, symbolizing the unity of glory and death.


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One of the most exotic elements of the modern world of art, Tatanua masks definitely offer more food for thoughts than any connoisseur can think of. Comprising the elements of different styles and at the same time bearing a distinct authentic air, these masks make one think of the ancient traditions and beliefs, any of the Tatanua masks immediately set the atmosphere of a mix between a wilderness and the wisdom of the centuries. An artwork truly worth appreciating, the Tatanua mask is another mystery yet to be solved.

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Hinzugefügt: 2020-03-25