ICHCAP Published an Exhibition Catalogue Titled “Alternative Identities: Masks of ASEAN and Korea”

The Exhibition Catalogue ©ICHCAP, KF ASEAN Culture House

ICHCAP and the KF ASEAN Culture House have published an exhibition catalogue introducing exhibits unveiled at the “Alternative Identities: Masks of ASEAN and Korea” exhibition (26 April to 23 July).

Masks are representative pieces of a cultural heritage that has evolved throughout human history, transcending time and space. In particular, attention in masks, a human cultural heritage, is also increasing thanks to the November 2022 inclusion of “Talchum, Mask Dance Drama in the Republic of Korea” on UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity and the recent trend that pays attention to the meaning of “avatar” and “second character” in virtual reality. In this context, the diverse mask cultures of ASEAN and Korea offer an opportunity to explore cultural diversity and artistic values stemming from humanity’s universal aspirations.

The exhibition catalogue, consisting of five sections, introduces the mask culture of Korea and ASEAN through performing arts, festivals, and contemporary artwork. The first, “Origin of Masks,” showcases and introduces the origins of shamanistic masks intended to ward off disaster and disease and to pray for good harvests and masks for performance in plays and other entertainment forms. In the second section, “Representation of Myth,” ASEAN mask dramas that portray the ancient Hindu epic Ramayana are displayed. Representatively, Khon of Thailand and Lkhon Khol of Cambodia are introduced as the essence of total arts, combining various elements such as crafts, fashion, music, and dance. In the third section, “Alternative Realities,” Tuong (Hat Boi) of Vietnam is introduced as a traditional opera that contains moral messages, featuring its unique makeup that resembles masks. The fourth section, “Reflections of Self,” shows masks used in local festivals in which the citizens of the Philippines participate, and presents contemporary art works to contemplate the modern meaning of masks. The fifth section celebrates the inscription of “Talchum, Mask Dance Drama in the Republic of Korea” on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in November 2022 and exhibits thirteen kinds of masks, all of which were displayed when Talchum was nominated.

The inscription of ‘Talchum, Mask Dance Drama in the Republic of Korea‘ on the UNESCO Representative List ©Cultural Heritage Administration

To help understand the exhibition, detailed explanations and discussions by scholars are also included. High-definition photos by professional photographers can be referenced not only by visitors but also by experts in related fields, increasing the academic value of the book.

As the importance of the transmission and safeguarding of mask culture is emphasized more than ever after Talchum was listed on the UNESCO List, the exhibition catalogue is expected to play a key role in promoting value of mask culture to the international community. The catalogue can be downloaded as a .pdf file from ICHCAP’s website on the publication menu.