Northern Illinois University

NIU Office of Public Affairs

Photo of mask

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News Release

Contact: Tom Parisi, NIU Public Affairs
(815) 753-3635

May 9, 2005

Performance masks of Southeast Asia
on display at Anthropology Museum

DeKalb, Ill. -- The Anthropology Museum at Northern Illinois University is featuring a new exhibit of about 80 performance masks from Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia and Malaysia.

Made of wood or papier-mâché, brightly colored and sometimes beaded, the masks depict the people, animals, clowns and demons portrayed in traditional dance dramas performed during religious rites or as entertainment.

Titled “Gods and Demons, Monkeys, and Men: Masks of Southeast Asia,” the exhibit is open for viewing weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. through mid-September at the Anthropology Museum, located in the north wing of the Stevens Building.

The museum also will be open on the weekends of May 21-22 and June 4-5, while NIU is hosting international conferences on Southeast Asian studies. Visits also can be arranged by appointment by calling (815) 753-0246.

Most of the masks are owned by guest curator Kathy Foley, a p rofessor of theatre arts at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Foley interviewed, viewed and studied performance traditions with major artists in Southeast Asia. The Anthropology Museum has added its own collection of Thai masks, altar furniture and costumes to the exhibit.

“Kathy has put together an amazing variety of beautiful masks, which are truly works of art,” said Ann Wright-Parsons, director of the Anthropology Museum. “These dramas are meant to dazzle the audience with the color of the costumes and action of the characters. In these countries of Southeast Asia, this is a continuing living tradition.”