Close-up photographs of INI members’ Noh masks

This year’s Men-no-kai Noh mask carving exhibition took place at the Kyoto Prefectural Center for Arts and Culture 28th-30th November. Among others three INI members, INI Senior Director Rebecca Teele Ogamo (USA), Kim Hea-Kyoung (South Korea), and Elaine Czech (USA) exhibited their latest works.

Czech carved a Ko-omote, one of the most popular Noh masks. It is also the first Noh masks that is carved by beginners. Despite its apparent simplicity, the Ko-omote is a very difficult mask to create, and mask carvers often go back to carving it later in their mastery. Ko-omote (lit. ‘small face’) is used for main or secondary roles when the character is a young girl or, in some cases, a supernatural being. Ko-omote is inspired by the aesthetic canons of the Heian period (794-1185), regarded as a golden-age of cultural sophistication and refinement. The face is painted in white, eyebrows are plucked and painted on the top of the forehead, hair is neatly combed on the sides, and teeth are dyed in black. The general feeling is that of innocent beauty.

Kim carved a Zō-onna, used for roles such as the celestial maiden of Hagoromo. As you can see from the picture, this mask shares formal similarities with Ko-omote, though it represents a more mature female visage. For example, eyebrows are thinner, the cheeks less round, and the hair on combed on the side are arranged in a different way. The ineffable beauty of this mask is more suitable for representing supernatural beings and goddesses rather than humans.

Teele Ogamo carved a Kasshiki, a mask used for roles of young temple acolyte such as in the plays Jinen-koji or Kagetsu. The bangs on the forehead represent hair that is yet to be cut before becoming a fully ordained monk. This mask is a blend of masculine features, such as the slightly bushy, pointed eyebrows, and feminine features, such as the hair combed on the sides of the face, creating an overall effect of youthful charm.

In the hi-res pictures below you can compare masks and observe details of the painting and brushing techniques that give an impression of age. Check more pictures of the event, including a costume demonstration, on our Facebook page!

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