Made up entirely of masks belonging to private individuals and opening in time for Purim, the new exhibit features masks from all continents, ancient and modern, from collectors all over Israel.
(Israel Ministry of Tourism)
"Behind the Mask" is the new exhibit that opens this week at the Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem and is made up entirely of masks belonging to private individuals.
The exhibit is part of a new initiative at the BLMJ, "Community Curates" in which the public has been invited to dust off their treasures and put them on display. The Community Curates project challenges the traditional role of museums by inviting the public to become involved in the creation of new displays.
Opening in time for Purim, "Behind the Mask” features masks from all continents, ancient and modern, from collectors all over Israel. The objects selected for display relate in innovative ways to artifacts from the Main Exhibition of the BLMJ.
Masks have been in use since the dawn of human history. The roles masks play span many cultures, styles and functions. The Ancient Egyptians placed masks on the faces of their deceased to commemorate their immortalization in the Afterlife, while in Ancient Greece masks were used by actors to portray different characters on stage. In Africa they are worn as part of ceremonial costumes, and to this day, people in Mexico wear masks as part of their traditional "Day of the Dead" celebrations. The mask is a powerful object: it can hide identity, protect privacy, and enable one to literally wear a different identity, and alter ones personality or social affiliation.
In the Middle Ages, Jews began to wear masks during the festival of Purim, even though the custom was frowned upon by the rabbis and leaders of the community. However, it quickly became an accepted tradition that is an integral part of Purim celebrations throughout the Jewish world to this day.
The exhibit featuring a fascinating display of various masks will be on display until September 2016.