February 11-13


Zina Saro-Wiwa (British/Nigerian, born 1976). The Invisible Man, 2015. Pigmented inkjet print, 28 æ x 44 in. (73 x 111.8 cm). Seattle Art Museum, Commission, 2015. Courtesy of the artist. © Zina Saro-Wiwa


To register, click on links on the side:

Time Event Presenter(s) Additional Details & Brief Bio Link to register

5:00-6:45 PM*


Mask Making Techniques


Alice Gottschalk


Linda Wingerter


Join Alice Gottschalk from Germany and Linda Wingerter from Ithaca, New York  for some new techniques for inspired mask making. Use basic supplies to create new ways of approaching mask making. Playfully experiment with cardboard and paper and then finish the mask on your own (check here 2/4 for a final list). Also, see Alice’s movement workshop on  Sunday morning to animate your mask (or another you have), drawing on the architecture and materiality of the mask itself.  

Supply list here.


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7:00-9:00 PM Keynote Lecture Performance and Q&A

Worrying the Mask: The Politics of Authenticity and Contemporaneity in the Worlds of African Art

Hosted by  Dr. Cynthia Becker

Zina Saro-Wiwa 

with Dr. Cynthia Becker

In this unique performance lecture film, artist Zina Saro-Wiwa navigates the moral, philosophical and cultural conundrums that arise from the very existence of contemporary traditional African art. The likes of which she encounters, exhibits and entangles with in her native Ogoniland. Yet Saro-Wiwa’s hybrid identity has forced her to consider how African masks live both in the West and in Africa and how these African art worlds impact one another and explores the ways in which the cultural capital-building powers of traditional African art objects are curtailed. In “Worrying the Mask” Saro-Wiwa challenges the call for the restitution of African art by privileging storytelling over geographical location. She exposes the desires and limitations of Ogoni storytelling to ask whether an object can represent a people at all. And she elucidates how contemporaneity informs the genre of “contemporary traditional African art,” suggesting that our attempts to understand and explain it may require a radical ontological shift.

Dr. Cynthia Becker is Associate Professor in the History of Art & Architecture Department at Boston University, specializing in African and African diaspora art.

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Ana and Débora Correa of Yuyachkani


Time Event Presenter(s) Additional Details & Brief Bio








Use the link for Event 3 to register for the whole day of programming (9 AM-4 PM)



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Event #3




Masking Pedagogies: Teaching and Learning in the Feminist Theory Classroom


Dr. Chinyere Okafor


Chinyere Okafor’s research shows African masking to be a complex combination of ritual, drama, music, dance, science and meta science in a performance that uses layers of disguise to involve another reality in streamlining social structure and harmony.  Okafor is intrigued by the versatility of the mask and its concept especially how women have used it to engage gender inequality. This has influenced her use of the masking idea as a veritable educational tool.

Her panel focuses on how she draws from her talent as poet, playwright, and short story writer in her use of masking ideas to facilitate students’ understanding in her Theories of Feminism classes. This panel involves her explanation of mask as a pedagogical tool, and two video clips showing her students’ use of body costumes and hats to embody different feminist concepts that they present before audiences to challenge gender inequalities. This will be followed by a Q&A on masking pedagogy.




Another Look at Masquerade in Africa


Susan Elizabeth Gagliardi


In this presentation, art historian Susan Elizabeth Gagliardi will invite us to look again at masquerade in Africa and interrogate common assumptions about the art. She will draw on her nearly two years of research among masquerade performers and audiences in western Burkina Faso as well as close attention to decades of writing on African arts by a variety of observers and thinkers. While the makers and performers of many documented masquerades have been men, in certain times and places the art has involved women in ways that may surprise. Gagliardi will reflect on important contributions of women to the art and demonstrate other ways in which masquerade is a dynamic, multifaceted practice dependent on particular individuals and specific contexts.




Approaches To Teaching About Africa: Concepts, Issues, and Practices


Elsa Wiehe


Engaging with African masquerade practices in the classroom means having a firm sense of what it means to teach about Africa as a place and as a concept. The continent is invested with meanings that have socialized our students with preconceptions. Part of our role as teachers is to disrupt the reductive meanings and provide space for students to expand their understandings of the continent with the goal of instilling respect and reverence for its amazing traditions and practices while taking one’s positionality into account. This session will introduce you to ways of inviting your students to learn about the continent using this expansive and self-reflective perspective while presenting concrete tools to draw from.


12:30-1:00 Lunch 
1:00-1:35PM Looking for Trouble: Some Thoughts on Navigating the Complexity of Teaching About Global Masking Practices Felice Amato Notions of best practices in multicultural (and now global) art education have changed dramatically in the past 50 years, as has society’s awareness of fraught practices of the past. Still, the way forward is often just as formidable and masquerade practices present specific challenges. Dr. Felice Amato shares reflections and insights into her own approaches with current and preservice teachers to explore these themes thoughtfully and to welcome the learning that comes from the complexity of the task, rather than turning away from teaching about global masquerade.  

1:30-1:45 Break 
1:45-3:15PM African Masquerade Traditions in the Curriculum: Engaging Students Authentically 

Presentation and Q&A

Paula Mans and Marie Darling In this presentation, art educators Paula Mans and Marie Darling present curriculums that they have designed dedicated to engaging students authentically on African masquerade in K-12 classrooms. The curriculums highlight traditional masquerade forms and how they influence contemporary artists from the African continent and its diaspora.



Closing of Workshop


In this session, we invite participants to share their reactions and learnings stemming from the day’s events. Educators are invited to continue attending the other sessions of interest.

4:00-7:00PM Break There is no Event #4
7:00 – 9:00PM Special Event Ana and Débora Correa of Yuyachkani from Peru in conversation with Anne Lambright Join Dr. Anne Lambright  for a conversation with Ana and Débora Correa about their life’s work with Yuyachkani, Peru’s most important theater collective. “Grupo Cultural Yuyachkani has been working since 1971 at the forefront of theatrical experimentation, political performance, and collective creation. Yuyachkani is a Quechua word that means ‘I am thinking, I am remembering;” under this name, the theater group has devoted itself to the collective exploration of embodied social memory, particularly in relation to questions of ethnicity, violence, and memory in Peru…. Known for its creative embrace of both indigenous performance forms as well as cosmopolitan theatrical forms, Yuyachkani offers insight into Peruvian and Latin American theater, and to broader issues of postcolonial social aesthetics.” The Correas will show examples of their work from throughout their careers, with special attention to the mask in Peruvian history and women’s involvement in traditional masquerades. Anne Lambright is Professor of Hispanic Studies and Head of the Department of Modern Languages at Carnegie Mellon University and has written about the Correa sisters. Registration Link:

Event #5

*= all times are EST 



Alice Gottschalk


Sunday’s events will be announced in more detail shortly.

Time Event Presenter(s)   Additional Details & Brief Bio link to register 
8:30-10:45 AM Panel Registration Link:

Event #6

The Japanese Female Mask Okame “Plain-looking Woman”: Origins, Usages, Significations Galia Petkova Similarly to other patriarchal cultures where masks were attributed a sacred nature, in Japan women were also excluded from the use of masks in traditional performing arts, which, moreover, were mostly male-dominated. Accordingly, the female masks were created and used by men, expressing specific visions of “ideal,” or “demonic,” or “plain-looking” femininity. Two of the mainstream genres employ masks. Bugaku, imported from the continent in the 6th-7th century and adopted as the performing art of the imperial court, features only supernatural masks that are not gender based and are generally deemed “foreign” and “exotic.” It was the noh theatre, which developed during the 14th-15th century as the performing art of samurai aristocracy, that gave birth to what is today considered representative Japanese masks. Of these, ko-omote, a symbol of idealised femininity, and hannya, the jealous female demon, are the most well-known and have even become representative of noh. Read more here.
Masking “Chineseness”: The Performance Works of Xie Rong (Echo Morgan) Freda Fiala The performances of Xie Rong (Echo Morgan) engage with Masks and Maskings as strategies of a strong contemporary female artistic expression. Born in Chengdu in 1983, Xie Rong’s studies have taken her to the UK, where she currently lives and works. Looking at Chinese culture from a diasporic perspective, her performances focus mainly on her family history in relation to the political history of modern China. She uses both physical Masks as well as various strategies of Masking her skin, which highlight the body both as a place for the projection of transcultural phantasy and as a site of power struggle. Contextualising the case study of Xie Rong, the presentation takes a conceptual approach, to understand her artistic engagement with Masks and Maskings as a ‘method’ of corporeal investigation and as ambitious intercultural articulation.
Masks of Sanxingdui and Sanxing Taiji  Shanny Rann Sanxingdui in China is hailed to be one of the greatest archaeological find of the 20th century. It was first chanced upon by a local farmer when digging in front of his home in Sichuan, China in 1929. An archaeological excavation was not launched on the site until 1934 by Western missionaries of the West China Union University, now known as Sichuan University. It took fifty-two years before the major discovery of the sacrificial pits in 1986, followed by another breakthrough in March 2021, unveiling more Bronze age artifacts including a 3000-year-old gold. Among the bronze heads found, one of them has distinct features of a woman. While mystery continues to shroud this lost civilization, it has inspired re-enactments of ritual performances in and beyond China. My research looks at Sanxing Taiji, founded by a Canadian Chinese woman after her visit to Sanxingdui in 1997. What elements of Sanxingdui did Master Li Rong incorporate into Sanxing Taiji? What role do the masks play in the performances of Sanxing Taiji? This presentation is a culmination of a 5-year autoethnographic study at the Li Rong Wushu and Qigong Academy in Vancouver, Canada and will include photos and video footages of Sanxing Taiji.
Engaging Cultural Diversity Through Face Masks in Studio Art Instruction Hwa Young Caruso Studio art teaching, learning and practice are based on a Euro-centric approach. As a culturally diverse professor in a liberal arts college, my studio art classes help students increase their knowledge of global cultures through a face mask project. In my introduction to Drawing class, one assignment is an interdisciplinary project that combines, research, writing and artmaking about global cultures. For more information, visit the presenter’s page.
11-12 Workshop: Masks and Movement  Alice Gottschalk  Join Alice Gottschalk for a interactive movement workshop to animate a mask you have or have made. A puppet and mask artist, Alice designs, builds, and performs. Her ideas come out of the mask, puppet, object, or material, through researching the object and discovering what stories it can tell. Her pedagogical aim is to let the participants playful discover their individual skills. Alice is also teaching mask making along with Linda Wingerter on Friday, February 11 at 5 pm (see above).

Please have some space to move, comfortable clothing, and a wearable mask.

Registration Link:

Event #7

Artist Talk and Presentations

Registration Link:

Event #8


Artist Talk

The Mask, Inside and Out


Anna Shishkina One of the oldest street theater art directors Anna Shishkina shares a handful of insights into the ways of working with the mask in theatrical performance. Various influences on the audience and interconnection of the mask and an actor will be explored. Anna considers the mask as a focal point of the carnival, the way of creating provocative anti-reality. Theater “Mister Pejo’s Wandering Dolls” has its own school, which heavily relies on improvisation and interaction with the spectator. Backed up by 30 years of experience, Anna investigates specifics of mask duality: its symbiotic existence with the actor in the frames of character (“insides” of the mask) and archetypes of its effect on the audience (“the outs”). Frosia Skotnikova, also a company member, translates for her mother.
1:30-1:55 Passing as the Other Roberta Micallef This presentation explores instances where Ottoman/Turkish and European women in literary and visual texts alter their language, attire or behavior to pass as someone of a different national, religious or ethnic group. I will explore when and how they attempt to pass as an “other,” the circumstances when and if they choose to reveal themselves and finally the consequences of either their masking or unmasking their identities.

The Image and Self-Image of Masking Women in Muslim Southeast Asia

Laurie Margot Ross In this presentation, Laurie Margot Ross discusses how masks are perceived within Islam generally and by a Muslim community in West Java, Indonesia, specifically. The main critique of masks among some Muslims and religious scholars is that they stand in opposition to perceived injunctions on figural art and, hence, promote idolatry. Less often discussed, but important to consider, is that a human intervention is required to bring a mask to life. This is different from puppetry, which is more widely accepted in the Muslim world. Not only can puppets be altered to conform to Islamic aesthetics, but the puppeteer is physically detached from the puppet they manipulate (hence, the moniker, “puppet master”). A mask wearer, by necessity, becomes an extension of their object the moment it is donned. This may lead to cognitive problems simply by concealing their face. There is, furthermore, a gendered aspect to religion- and ritual-based masking: it is predominantly a male activity. Finally, the performance space may be secret or take place in public; examples being West African rites of passage and secret society initiations. Masking in West Java is different. Women there have long been solo mask practitioners, named dalang topeng. The most elevated among them trace their lineage to a Sufi saint. Also unique to the region is that these women embody both male and female characters and do so in public. While Laurie’s talk primarily focuses on Indonesia, she links the mask’s continued importance to Muslims south of the Sahara not only because of their religious beliefs, but for cultural and political reasons as well.
2:30-3:45 Workshop: Introduction to Wayang Golek (rod puppets) and Topeng  (masks): From One, Many. Kathy Foley Using the systems of dance movement, vocal parameters, and character type the Dalang (narrator/puppet master) in West Java can do multiple stories from local legends to Hindu-derived epics to tales of Muslim heroes. Puppet, mask, unmasked dancer, giant figure all follow the same rules of type and story construction whether the tale is of the Majapahit hero Panji, the Hindu heroes Rama or Arjuna, or the Muslim Amir Hamzah. The medium can change from story scrolls to shadow puppets, to rod puppets, to masks, to actors, to giant figures, but the techniques remains the same and presumes a genderless performer moving between different types. Adaptation to Western narratives is likewise easily accommodated. Lecture will give the basic background and philosophical meaning. Examples of basic character type will be given as the participants do the moves, learn the drum syllables, and voices and try manipulating a quickly made figure.

Thank you for registering! You will be making a twisted paper figure of newsprint and scotch tape to manipulate so please have those materials available. Also, having some kind of long thin scarf would also be desirable. 

Registration Link:

Event #9

4-5 A Conversation with Big Queen Laurita Dollis: the Wild Magnolias Black Indian Tribe in New Orleans Dr. Cynthia Becker and Laurita Dollis Join Dr. Cynthia Becker for a conversation with Big Queen Laurita Dollis about her involvement with the Wild Magnolias Black Indian Tribe in New Orleans. Since the 1880s, Black New Orleanians have been creating and wearing feathered and beaded outfits on Carnival day, parading through the city’s working class African American neighborhoods far from the parades organized by New Orleans’ white elite. Black Indians pay homage to the mutual struggles experienced by indigenous Americans and people of African descent in their quest for self-expression and agency. This presentation concentrates on the participation of women in this largely male masking tradition. Big Queen Laurita Dollis explained her love of Black Indian masking, stating: “I made my suit, and I wore it, and it felt so royal. The royal-ness was unbelievable. The respect that queens get is unbelievable. And from that time, I never stopped. That was about 22 years ago. It’s a wonderful feeling to wear it.” She is also the head of the Queens of the Nation, which is committed to the preservation and presentation of the tradition of the Black Masking Indians. Registration Link:

Event #10 


This free conference is made possible by the following Boston University programs, entities, and initiatives: The Center for the Humanities, the College of Fine Arts, the School of Theatre, the School of Visual Arts, the Online Masters in Art Education, the Arts Initiative’s Indigenous Voices Series, the African Studies Center, the Kilachand Honors College, and Cinem’Afriq. We are grateful for their support. We are grateful for their support.

We also wish to thank UNIMA-USA for their endorsement of this conference weekend. Union Internationale de la Marionnette is an organization in which all those people in the world concerned with the Art of the Puppet Theatre associate voluntarily in order to serve through their art the idea of peace and of mutual understanding without distinction as to race, political ideas or religion.