What the masks hide?

Category: Entertainment

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What the masks hide? Tangible and intangible visual representations of the local and national in the city of Sozopol Liz Mellish Ivo Strahilov


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Ivo Strahilov University of Sofia MA student in Cultural Heritage Management What the masks hide? Tangible and intangible visual representations of the local and national in the city of Sozopol Liz Mellish PhD student at UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies


Aims What tangible and intangible evidence could we find of local (rural?) practices? Focused on masks and bells because of the local (and national) mumming traditions


Methods Observation - Souvenir shops - Ethnographic museum - Children's festival Interviews - Shop keepers - Ethnographic museum curator - Officials – PR in city hall, Chitalishte employees - Local people – Bulgarians, Greeks.

Journey through our fieldwork:

Journey through our fieldwork Visual objects in the city – souvenir shops and displays

Commercial items:

Commercial items Masks from Indonesia, bells from Pernik and Troyan, items made in China but labelled with ‘Sozopol’ or ‘Bulgaria’ “I really want to sell Bulgarian masks but they are too expensive. For me is cheaper to buy Indonesian masks from the Internet…”

The official views :

The official views Kukeri and Masquerade games festival organized by Municipality, 5 th edition in 2012 Before Lent in the city amphitheatre Participants from Sozopol and surrounding villages Traditional and modern masked characters

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Sozopol amphitheatre, 2012

The mask tradition: Greek or Bulgarian?:

The mask tradition: Greek or Bulgarian? Urban mask “mutsuna” vs. rural kukeri Sozopol, 1954

PowerPoint Presentation:

“ The urban tradition of ‘mutsuni’ is kept alive in Sozopol by the Greeks.” “This is a very old Greek tradition, which is connected to Dionysius.” “The Bulgarian newcomers adapted the masking from the local Greeks.” “We were Greek colony, we have done everything…” The Greek views

The Bulgarian views:

The Bulgarian views “The kukeri tradition is alive in Sozopol.” “The tradition comes from our ancestors – the Thracian refugees.” “We are not really big kukeri but we keep the tradition alive.” “We are more Greeks than the Greeks in Sozopol, because our parents have lived in Greece.” “The mutsuni tradition is Greek but we have our tradition.”

Final observations :

Final observations Masks provide a façade that hides (masks) local contestation Local tradition still exists both in the city and in surrounding rural areas It is adapting over time Memory is alive of how this has changed Process is “supported” by local politicians, the city hall and NGOs

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Thank you for your attention!

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