I had planned to continue discussion of the masks of Francisco “Pancho” Parra today, but I realized that I was uncertain about certain details. I am postponing that post and substituting the one that was to follow.
I bought today’s attractive and highly unusual mask from my friend Tom Kolaz in 2014. His runner had found it in the Rio Mayo area of Sonora. At that time it was still being danced. The Moroyoqui family of Sonora had originally purchased it circa 1940, it had remained in that extended family until the time of purchase, and the carver was said to be Gerardo Arce, an individual whom the family identified as someone who had carved more than one mask. Gerardo is otherwise unknown to either Tom Kolaz or myself. There are two possibilities here; either Gerardo is a newly identified master carver of great talent, or the carver was actually someone else and the family’s report is in error. The problem, as you may recall from my earlier posts about Yaqui Pascola masks, is that these attributions by sellers frequently appear to be erroneous, when one compares a given mask to those of well recognized carvers. The shaping of the joint between the top of the nose and the forehead of this mask resembles the style of Pancho Parra, whose masks were the subject of my last two posts. However, the mask is otherwise different from those of Pancho in various respects, with some features that seem m/l generic in the Rio Mayo tradition, others found on older anonymous Mayo Pascola masks, and the unusual forehead that seems unique to this mask. To my eye this mask is a masterpiece.
In general, this mask is clearly in the Rio Mayo style, with an oval shape, moderately long hair bundles for the brows and beard, almond shaped eyes, decorative painted design elements that flank the nose, and a slightly open mouth. It may or may not have originally had a tongue. This tongue is a separate wooden element that has been inserted between the teeth and secured with a nail, a traditional variation found on a few other Mayo Pascola masks.
The artistry of the carving and decoration make one think of one of the premier Yaqui carvers of the mid-20th century, Manuel Centella Escalante. Having said this, one must add that the forehead cross and the rim design look nothing like his work. One would be more tempted to think that a Mayo carver saw a Centella mask and was inspired to copy some aspects of his style. Continue Reading