My mom and her friends were taken on a cultural study trip to the National Folk Museum of Korea (국립민속박물관) which is located in the premises of the Gyeongbok Palace (경복궁). This is a picture of a part of the Gyeongbok Palace in the background.
This is one of the gates of the palace the KeunJeongMoon (근정문), or the third inner gate. However, it was not the destination for my mom’s class trip for the day.
This is the National Folk Museum of Korea located in Seoul. If you take the subway line no.3, you can either take exit no.1 at Angok Station or exit no.5 at Gyeonbokgung Station. If travelling by subway line no.5 then use exit no.2 at Gwanghamun Station.
My mom and her friends attended the crafts making class located in the children’s museum of the National Folk Museum of Korea. They learnt how to make traditional Korean masks known as ‘Tal’ (탈) and later they also learnt the traditional mask dance ‘Talchum’ (탈춤). This is my mom with her friend Hana from Malaysia getting ready to start painting their paper-mâché masks. Here is the official website of the National Folk Museum of Korea – http://www.nfm.go.kr:8080/english/htm/class1_introduction.htm
Some of the original masks are supposed to look like this and each mask has a specific symbolic significance attached to it. Most of the masks have religious or cultural functions and some were also used for Shamanistic exorcism rituals. For example, the black mask with the white dots is supposed to represent ‘Nojang’ (노장탈), or the drunk monk, who also had a penchant for women and in many popular dramas is later punished and consequently mends his ways. The white mask at the bottom of the picture represents ‘Pune’ (부네탈)- the flirtatious young woman. For a more detailed description of the history and fascinating myths related to the masks please check this website : http://www.tal.or.kr/coding/english/sub01.asp#
The history and legends attached to each mask are definitely enchanting. However, my mom and her friends were given artistic license to improvise and come up with their own designs. Here you can see everyone busy painting their masks.
That is Goktug from Turkey and Mita from Indonesia painting away. Mita seems to be really engrossed in painting her one.
and this is my mom’s final version with a definite Nepali twist to it.
The finishing touch was the black cloth attached to the mask to represent hair and the string to hold the mask in place.
The customary group picture taken wearing the masks. The mask did have a weird effect on some people and made them come up with new forms of bizarre equations.Then they were off to learn the mask dance ‘Talchum’ (탈춤) with their newly made masks in place.They even had a dance instructor to guide them through the various steps.
The best part for me of course was that I got to keep the mask my mom made.
Here is a demonstration of the Korean mask dance ‘Talchum’ (탈춤).
Similarly in Nepal there are various kinds of mask dances related to various religious festivals mainly in the Newari communities and Buddhist traditions of the hilly and Himalayan regions of Nepal.
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