Photo: Jeremy Horner

These are brilliant. But despite laboriously trying to find hard facts, they still remain somewhat illusive.

The top picture was scanned from a 2004 edition of
Death in the Andes (Mario Vargas Llosa), published by Faber & Faber. This was where my curiosity was piqued.The bottom picture came from this site where I picked up some scant information about the origins of these knitted masks.

There are versions of these woollen masks in the neighbouring countries of Bolivia and Peru. In Bolivia they are said to be used by the Qollas of Puno and Paucartambo (other types of cloth mask are worn by the Qusillu of the Altiplano). The masks are hand knitted to depict human features, including curling moustaches, beauty spots, chins and rosy cheeks. It's somehow fitting that the Qollas people use knitting to create these pieces as they are traditionally llama herders who roam the mountains, to which wool and knitting are closely associated.

If you're interested in more information about the rituals in which these masks are used, look at this book review: Shaping Society Through Dance: Mestizo Performance in the Peruvian Andes by Zoila S. Mendoza.

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Nice that when you put on a mask, you reinvent yourself.

But your eyes, your view of the world, stays the same. It's the part that the mask can't cover/alter/enhance. Or at least, it shouldn't, if the mask is to remain practical. I think.

So although you look like someone/something else to those around you, you haven't actually altered your perspective. But I guess the knowledge that your true self is hidden, is enough for some to create an alter ego far beyond the limits of the corporeal.

Maybe a bit like me, when I change my glasses. Or my boots. Never tried masks. Because of the glasses. Must address that.