Featured Artifacts: Cubeo Mask

Cubeo Mask Cubeo Mask Cubeo Mask Cubeo Mask

The modern Cubeo people are a Tukano-speaking culture of the northwestern Amazon region. Barkcloth masks, called táwü, are worn during the ónye, the Cubeo mourning ceremony. The ónye is one of the most complex and important Cubeo ceremonies. It takes place up to a year after death, can last four days and consists of as many as 50 ritual events. The ónye celebrates the life of the deceased and is a way to translate grief into joy.

The knee-length masks are made from white barkcloth and painted with vegetable dyes. They are worn by adult males during the ónye and represent ogres, insects, animals and forest spirits. Shamanism is a major component of the Cubeo belief system and the Cubeo believe that the masks contain the full sacred character of the spirit depicted.

After the ceremony the masks are usually burned, though some are kept for use as children's toys or storage sacks.