Transmission and Protection of Mask Cultures: Looking Back into Their Origins and Enhancing Their Shared Value

Symposium participants © IMACO

The making of masks as both a form of art and a habit of doing culture is a global undertaking. Various forms, shapes, and functions of masks exist as existing cultures in the world are informed by different contexts. By understanding masks, history can be unveiled, revealing how individuals and communities have perceived and are facing the world. Masks are cultural and are thus considered as field of heritage in which lays diversity.

Since its founding in September 2006, the International Mask Culture & Arts Organization (IMACO), an NGO accredited by the UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage, has been organizing an annual international symposium to promote academic activities for the transmission of mask culture. This year, the 2017 International Academic Symposium was held for three days from 29 September to 1 October at Andong Mask Dance Park on the occasion of the opening of the 2017 Andong Mask Dance Festival. The symposium, which was held under the main theme of “Transmission and Protection of Mask Culture and Enhancing Its Shared Value”, was attended by local and foreign experts on mask culture and intangible heritage.

After the opening ceremony of the event on 29 September, a symposium began in earnest the next day at Andong Culture & Arts Center. During the first session chaired by Dr. Seong-Yong Park, the Assistant Director-General of ICHCAP, presentations and a discussion were held under the subject of “Mask Culture and Sustainable Development”. The second session followed in the afternoon. Led by Sanggyo Sim, Professor of the Busan National University of Education, the speakers eloquently introduced the origin, archive, and transmission status of mask cultures in China, Japan, Korea, Thailand, and Indonesia. This particular session made it more apparent how masks draw a diverse world.

On 1 October, the last day of the symposium, the speakers continued to set discussions about the origin and transmission status of mask culture but focused on Korean mask culture.

They introduced Gut T’al-Nori, Doll Mask, and Nongak (farm music) Mask Dance, and were able to talk about how to effectively safeguard them. Lastly, all the participants had a discussion moderated by Kwon Huh, the Director-General of ICHCAP, going back to and deeply deliberating the main theme of the symposium.

The symposium offered the participants a chance to examine the origins and transmission of various mask cultures of the world and explore ways to enhance the value of mask culture. They also agreed to actively encourage intercultural dialogue as pursued by UNESCO through mask culture. IMACO expects that this symposium would lead to a more vibrant exchange and communication among mask-producing communities, contributing to enhanced global awareness about mask culture and its further development. IMACO continues its efforts in promoting mask culture through cooperation with communities that have driven the transmission of mask culture.