What Is the History of Balinese Masks?

Balinese masks are used in Topèng, a special type of performance known as a mask drama that is an important genre in Bali, according to BalineseDance.org. The site notes that Topèng have been used for both religious and secular performances since the inception of Balinese mask drama. History of Masks places the birth of Topèng and Balinese masks in the beginning of the 15th century.

According to History of Masks, the Balinese mask drama tradition stemmed from the tribal dances in Indonesia. These tribal dances were meant to honor gods and ancestors, and dancers wore Balinese masks to play the part of messengers sent by the gods.

Balinese tradition says that each mask is a sacred object that demands the highest standards of artistry and respect, explains the Annenberg Learner. Each Balinese village has its own mask, or Barong, that acts as a symbolic guardian.

Masked Balinese dance continues to be a popular form of entertainment as of 2002, says World Arts West. The organization notes that several of the most popular Topèng dances were created in the later half of the 20th century, and dancers and artists continually rearrange and create new Topèng dance dramas based on older myths.