Dr. Gautam Chatterjee  




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MASK -- a Poetry, a silent language

by Dr. Gautam Chatterjee

Prof. Michael Meschke a Member of the Executive Committee of the Union International de la Marionnette; a director and film maker; author of "In Search of Aesthetics for the Puppet Theatre" talks to Dr.Gautam Chatterjee at a lunch break during ‘Mask’ Seminar at New Delhi.

G.C.: Prof. Michael Meschke how do you look at Mask as a pan-Universal symbol?

M.M: Its not to me a symbol --a truly Universal instruments of communication meaning that mask by definition an essence of human expressions and therefore accessible to all.Precisely everyone understand the language of Mask world over. But mask is a silent language!

G.C.: Mask has remained an integral part of human expressions at the sacred level. Can you enlighten us about the sacredness still alive amongst indigenous people of the world.

M.M.: I have not cultivated it anthropologically this will be better expressed by an Anthropologist! I can say that sacredness is an integrated heart of all human existence even amongst athiest. We only don’t know the matter, we are to become more conscious about it.

G.C.: How do you distinguish sacred Mask ritual and Theatrical expressions of Modern days!

M.M. : I hope that distincion should not be(made) nor necessarily, neither interesting. Even the most modern theatre has its roots in sacred rituals I mean in ancient rituals it has its roots. We should be more aware of this.

G.C.: Will you enlighten us about what goes towards making a mask--as a reflection and as a vision of man’s inner psyche.

M.M.: Most difficult and most beautiful purpose to say the most possible with an absolute minimum(effort) example is Japanise Masks.

To search for the poetry, or comical theme are less interpreted. The purpose of the mask is to touch and twist your heart with emotions like compassion, love, deeper joy. I am looking for the poetical value in the mask. The less of execerations that the mask or makers imposes on the spectator the more he stimulates this spectator to activate his own imagination and capacity to cooperate creatively to seeing and feeling emotions namely life whereas in reality there is no life at all (in mask).

G.C.: The aesthetic theme of mask at designer’s level differ widely but Nature and Natural power remains their core sector for inspirations and imaginations. How do you look at it Prof. Mischke?

M.M: The mask is an artificial product of man’s skill and imagination and also the opposite to the nature. In fact. Goethe said "art begins where nature stops". So you make a mask natural then there is no purposes! There has to be difference and that difference mostly is the work of stylization.

G.C.: Tell us something about traditional mask-makers and material used thereof. Is there any direct reference with their geographical settings? How do you look at the changes coming into the material...I mean the influence of modern world?

M.M.: I hate the kind of cultural imperialism exercised by the West to impose rationalization methods and methodologies for example the wonderful Marionnette Company of Africa who make wonder mask and the strings to those puppets are made of coconut hamper.But under western influence they were changed into nylon strips.

The more genuine material you have from your cultural and geographical setting the more you enrich global heritage. The key to success is understanding and practising of the differences as opposed to equalizing and standardization. More variations are better.

In our country Sweden lot of refugees come and merge into our culture loosing its own roots. Now we in Sweden make young imigrants to create their own home puppet theatre which is better than the western Donald Duck shows.

In the context of material pure cotton and silks are being replaced by nylons and synthetics.... I do not say stick to anything primitive everybody has to develop and accept modernity. The variety of material used traditionally are better for cultural enrichments. (Prof.Meschke meant that again the roots and cultural nuances should not be deleted completely. Furthermore he gave a simily to understand the world cultural scenario and voiced for protection of people’s own rich cultural heritage).

In the modern context developed countries are pumping money to the developing world and on the other hand ‘culturally rich’ developing country are pumping ‘culture’ into the ‘culturally poor’ developed world! (Here Prof. Mischke is driving home the idea of maintaining one’s own roots and heritage against the western onslaught)

G.C.: Sir You are advisor to the IGNCA’s ethnographic collection of masks!Will you elaborate your role to create this unique collection?

M.M.: I merely tried to materialise very deep and the holistic concept of Dr. Kapila Vatsayayan and to transform the idea into exhibition was done by Dadi Padamjee.

I have also borrowed 20 odd greek puppets which are shown in this Mask exhibition.

I am also permanant Consultant for the National Stage Puppet which will be errected by IGNCA where different puppets from all over India will be shown. And over the stage a slogan will be written "Tradition is a continuous creation in the now". This slogan was coined by Prof. S.C. Mallik, my friend here.

G.C.: Now in Modern days Mask makers are again coming to the forefront is it cultural revivalism will you say something from the standpoint of Sweden?

M.M.: To such an extent that ‘mask-poor’ country like Sweden recently installed a special professor Chair for Mask and Puppets at the National Dramatic Institute for Training of artists! Moreover, the country has sent three delegates to attend this Seminar which shows the revivalism!

G.C.: What’s your message to the world who sport the pseudo and cosmetic mask at the very behavioural level!

M.M.: Off WITH THE MASKS! Then the world would be a better place to live in!

Prof. Michael Meschke a Member of the Executive Committee of the Union International de la Marionnette; a director and film maker; author of "In Search of Aesthetics for the Puppet Theatre" talks to Dr.Gautam Chatterjee at a lunch break during ‘Mask’ Seminar at New Delhi.


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