A Culture of Painted Shells: Coconut Masks of Mexico
Ever wondered where the word “coconut” originated from?
A 15th century Spanish ghost-legend used to scare children featured “Coco,” a scary face resembling the hard coconut shell. Humans are always fascinated to see ourselves in Nature; so some of us decided to paint on coconut shells. Thus was born Mascaras de Coco, kept alive even today by Nahuatl artists of the Mezcala region in Mexico. At first, coconut shells are soaked in water, scraped with a knife, then coated with clay and decorated using acrylic paint.
Traditionally, the masks showed painted human faces, the jaguar and devil-faces. But as the local artists sensed the foreign tourists’ interest in their art, they began accepting suggestions. Thus, by incorporating admirers’ feedback, these coconut masks began having animal faces and even sun or moon faces. Along with being a means of livelihood, the masks are a link for the artists to their ancestors and culture.