Dance of the Devils by artist Charlene Eckels. This mask, La Diablada, tells a history of what happened to the Bolivian people during oppressive colonial rule and the folkloric stories being told to this day.
“La Diablada” by Charlene Eckels
A mask, in any culture is a symbol and expression of identity. Cultural identities are subject to the continuous ‘play’ of history, culture, and power. Identities are the names we give ourselves within the narratives of the past.
I am part Bolivian (maternal) and part American(paternal). Both connect me specifically with my past and present, therefore I bring to my art a quality which is rooted in the culture of Bolivia and expanded by the experience of being American. Bringing together folklore and historical memory I try and illustrate the complexities of cultural identity, and acknowledge my personal experience of being a hybrid. The masks I paint represent my cultural heritage in a contemporary style. To me identity is more than just the mask we use to represent ourselves to others, but also what it’s protecting from others by the mask we exhibit. This mask, La Diablada, tells a history of what happened to the Bolivian people during oppressive colonial rule and the folkloric stories being told to this day:
Masks like this are made for the Diablada (Dance of the Devils). The richly made uniforms, music and dance are all part of the annual carnival celebration in Oruro in the Bolivian Andes. This dance celebrates and pays honor to the Patroness of the Miners, the Virgin of Candelaria/Socavon (the Virgin of the tunnels). Its origins are a mixture of the Andean religious ceremonial dance in honor of the god Tiw (protector of mines, lakes, and rivers) and the Catholic faith brought in by the Spanish Conquistadores. The Diablada was inspired by native Bolivian tales of the Tio (devil) in the mine, who embodied the life-giving but dangerous power of the inner earth. After the Spanish conquest in the sixteenth century, the local inhabitants were forced by their conquerors to work in the silver and tin mines where they faced great hardship and danger. The miners made offerings to the Tio to avoid accidents and to help them find rich veins of precious metals. Their conversion to catholicism did not remove their fear of Tio, but through their misery brought them hope in the Virgin. To pay honor to the Virgin del Socavon they created the dance with fantastic costumes with the highlight of the costume being a mask of the devil. It is worn to hide its wearer from the view of the devil as the dancer pays homage to the Virgin, for protection in the mine and by not upsetting Tio, since he is the owner of the mine and can give riches or take life. This dance is performed in all the artistic and folk expressions of Bolivia.