Friday, November 8, 2013

First International Mask Contest - Venice Carnival 2014 - DEADLINE JANUARY 15, 2014

Mask by Kartaruga - as seen in Eyes Wide Shut

(Venice, Italy) The theme of Venice Carnival 2014 is, in Italian: LA NATURA FANTASTICA, which they have translated to: WONDER AND FANTASY NATURE on the official Carnevale di Venezia site. Usually I can understand what they are trying to say, but this one had me stumped. I am going to translate it to: THE FANTASY OF NATURE, but, perhaps, we English speakers should use the Italian this time.

Alberto Sarria Masks - Photo: Christine Zenino
If I understand correctly, Venice will be transformed into a magical forest inhabited by wondrous and fanciful creatures just like the animals in myths, fables and fairy tales. The phoenix, the bird that rises from the ashes (always a good theme for Venice:), Leda's Swan (who was actually Zeus so he could seduce her) and Daphne's Laurel Tree, (lovingly tended to by Apollo), are some examples they offer, though I wonder how many Americans are familiar with these myths. If not, preparing for Carnival in Venice is an excellent reason to acquaint yourself with some myths from other parts of the world. 

Alberto Sarria Masks
They also suggest: "Fantasy animals like the White Lion, the Werewolf Night, the Red Dragon; or more ironic and snarky representations of Donkeys, Rabbits, Foxes, Roosters and any other animals which are featured in international popular culture anthropomorphic irony." (I want to know who taught them the word "snarky.":)

From the official Carnival of Venice website:

"Humankind has always felt the need to narrate the mystery of nature through fairy tales. Global cultures, first in the shape of myths, then in an anthropomorphic shape in the world fairy-tale tradition, deploy an endless wealth of symbols and characters to describe the creation and the origin of life, the atmospheric elements, vegetable beings and animal creatures.

The East and the West, Asia and Oceania, the Americas and Europe, Africa: in this fairy-tale Carnival, masks will be inspired by traditional European fairy tales, Arabian and Middle-Eastern short stories, the votive symbols of African and Mesoamerican cultures, Indian, Mongolian and Cathay allegories."

Masks by Kartaruga
I LOVE this theme, and am looking forward to living in a Fairytale Forest come February. Apparently in addition to Piazza San Marco, even the major campos will be transformed into forests with real trees and plants, each campo ruled by a fantasy animal.

Russia - Vasilisa the Beautiful
Just imagine: you can be Little Red Riding Hood or the Big Bad Wolf. Alice in Wonderland or the White Rabbit. I think you could probably even be Dorothy or the Cowardly Lion. Or one of those horrid flying monkeys that kidnapped Toto. And, of course, there must be dragons! (Hhhhmmm... I wonder if the dog would consider dressing up as a small unicorn...)

I'll bet the Germans will arrive with some great ideas inspired by all those Grimm Brothers fairy tales, or the Danish with Hans Christian Anderson. Then we have the exotic worlds further East with the Armenians and the Chinese and the Japanese and Iran and Arabia and 1001 Nights and flying carpets. And Russia! And Africa! And Pakistan! And South America! And American Indians! And real Indians! And Antarctica! And Australia! And everybody everywhere! Think of all the possibilities!

Masks by Kartaruga
With all that in mind, a prestigious group of Venetian mask makers have gotten together to create the FIRST INTERNATIONAL SPECIAL MASK MAKING AWARD, La Maschera del Carnevale di Venezia, given out at the Venice Carnival. There will be three special prizes; the top prize is a week-long trip to Venice during the Regata Storica in September [UPDATE December 8, 2013: apparently it is now a two-day long trip], in addition to other perks and bonuses. I am telling you now so you can start thinking about what kind of handmade mask you want to create based on the theme La Natura Fantastica. The rules are not posted yet, but the deadline is going to be January 15, 2014, and you will have to send a photo and the story of the mask you have created. Carnival always recognizes the best costumes, but this will be the first time for the best MASK with the strong support of the Compagnia dei Mascareri veneziani. Hopefully it will help visitors to Venice better understand the art of mask making, and the difference between the inferior mass-produced masks found all over town, and the far superior handmade masks created by professional mask makers.

HERE IS THE LINK TO THE OFFICIAL CARNIVAL OF VENICE SITE which you should keep checking to see the rules. They say they should be posted in a few days, but I wanted to give you Venetian Cat - Venice Blog readers a head's up. I'll update this post when there is more information.

Masks by La Bottega dei Mascareri - Photo: Cat Bauer
Also, I wrote an article entitled A Brief History of Mask Making way back in 2001 for the International Herald Tribune's Italian supplement, Italy Daily (which no longer exists) in which I excerpted in a post I wrote way back on March 7, 2008 that you can read here about the originals of mask wearing in Venice.

The Venice Carnival will run from February 15 to March 4, 2014.

 La Bottega dei Mascarer in Eyes Wide Shut
Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog


  1. A prestigious group of Venetian mask makers have gotten together to create the FIRST INTERNATIONAL SPECIAL MASK MAKING AWARD, La Maschera del Carnevale di Venezia, given out at the Venice Carnival.

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