The Indians divide their world into two, the visible world and a parallel, invisible world. “The parallel world is superior to this universe which is in the shadow”, wrote Jean Marie Le Clézio, “it sees men, but men cannot see it”. Thus they invent ways to communicate with this parallel world.
The masks we are offering you are derived from these shamanic rites. For the Indians, “There is no such thing as a useless creation, art for the sake of art does not exist, there are just functions”. These masks perform a function.
For the rites and to facilitate healing sick people, the shaman uses sculpted wooden sticks, plant potions, as well as representations of animals, their role is to trick the bad spirits and for our delight, they use masks or “nemboro” as they are called in the Embera language, for this purpose.
The shaman stays awake all night, or even for several nights, and connects with the guides, helpers and spirits who assist with the healing work. The masks are used during these ceremonies or “mesas”.
Each tribe has one shaman, a man or woman who holds the power, unfortunately ever more in competition with western civilisation. Their know-how is transmitted orally from generation to generation. It is the shaman who decides to whom they will transmit this information.
Half witch doctor, half botanist, the shaman is both, feared and respected. The rituals involve a mix of taking plants and concoctions, singing, dancing, and often alcohol, “chichi” obtained from fermented maize.