The inspiration came to me as I was unpacking a box of masks…a cherished collection of my mother’s that I inherited on her passing. The masks are handmade by native cultures around the world. They “spoke” to me in a way, asking to be photographed. In a sense, working on this series offered me a unique way to stay connected with my mother’s spirit.
The “Transcendance” project draws conceptually from traditions of Shamanism and the Trance Dance experience. Through the ages, spiritual dancing has been embraced by cultures across the globe as a means to transcend our physical dimensions and connect with the Spirit world. Intuitive body movement and controlled breathing take the dancer on an inner voyage to a state of “trance.”
Most cultures throughout history have used masks in social or religious rituals or pageants. In some native tribes, masks are worn during ceremonies enacted to communicate with the spirits of their ancestors. The mask becomes an instrument of sacred revelation, a link to an ancestral presence – a way of bringing the past into the present. To symbolize this connection, some native tribes don ritualistic masks. The mask becomes an instrument of communication with the spirit of their ancestors…a link bringing the past into the present.
The long exposures in the “Transcendance” images create a blur with the dance movement, a metaphor for the continual passage through time in which the masks appear. For the Shaman, the soul lives forever. Spirit and ancestry are one – an eternally evolving line of genetic connection and wisdom.
All images and text © Debra Achen
By Debra Achen
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