In dusty and dark markets around Mexico, I went in search of the beautiful, handmade art masks originally from the small Mexican city of Oaxaca. A fantastic adventure that finally came true in the winter of 2018.
I have long been fascinated by the traditional, handmade masks from Mexico and Guatemala. Here, the supernatural is mixed with animal-like creatures and women and men in a graphic, slightly creepy and colorful idiom. The classic masks have a long history, dating back to before the Spanish colonial era – perhaps even thousands of years, when they have been used in rituals, festive events and ceremonies. So when the trip went to Mexico City and the Yucatan Peninsula in February 2018, it was clear to me that in addition to a lot of strong and colorful food, beautiful nature experiences and cold cervezas - I would probably also come home with a lot of excess weight.
In Mexico City I had therefore tried in advance to find local Artesania markets, where the possibility of finding the handmade masks might be. However, it turned out to be more difficult than first thought, which also made the hunt more fun. For me, it wasn't about getting a lot of masks bought in – but finding the right masks with exactly the aesthetic or expression I was looking for. On the way to the hotel in Mexico, our helpful taxi driver recommended Manuel a market in town if I was interested in Mexican crafts. From the outside it didn't look like much and was located in a busy area. But as soon as we strayed into the market, the pace slowed and settled down like a calm.
The market is a sea of covered passageways and corridors that surround a beautiful and open courtyard with a fountain in the middle. Absolutely perfect after a few hours around the many stalls. Here we settled on the classic mexi set – cold Coronas, guacémole and nachos. At the market I found a small wood workshop in one of the narrow and dark alleys. The workshop, which also functioned as a market stall, was completely plastered with old wood pulp in all sizes, colors and expressions. Screaming donkeys, grinning old men with missing teeth, devils, Europeans with black mustaches and fabulous animals with whiskers.
Stepping into the dark and very narrow workshop was really crazy – like a scene from Harry Potter. It was like stepping into a completely different universe where supernatural magic, mystery and superstition engulf you. Extremely creepy and claustrophobic to be totally surrounded by creepy and macabre faces all staring at you. The next day we went out to the San Juan market, which is located in the old part of the city and is known for selling more exotic meat such as crocodile.
Next to the large market hall lies an old market in disrepair. It is resoundingly empty here, and only 20% of the small stalls are open. It's almost like a ghost town or a scene from The Walking Dead. There are virtually no tourists here, so you are very loud and visible in the cityscape, which can be a bit uncomfortable. In here I was lucky enough to find three very different masks that took up the last spare space in the suitcase. With a slightly resigned look from my girlfriend, I had to realize that I probably had to send all the new finds home with the parcel post before we left.
Now the Mexican masks hang on AL Drewsensvej. You can see which ones are for sale on the webshop.