Thursday, May 21, 2009

Black Face / White Face

Why is it that death masks are always white,
but not seen as threatening?

Is it because those from whom they were made were white ?

Or is it the choice of material ?

But War Masks are black.
Or some variation ?

Regardless of culture.

Or continent.

But from Braveheart painting his face blue (to appear as "other") or indigenous people painting their faces (also in opposing colors - to appear as "other")...
Does the use of one's own color have a different meaning ?
Is the use of a color other than one's own meant to inspire fear ?
Maybe this is what many police officers experience when they see a Black face.


brohammas said...

Could it be that dead people of all hues go pale when dead?
Were I a warrior I would rather be the one who brings death than the one who becomes it....
Although a contingent of zombie pale dead warriors who appear dead but still mobile may invoke the proper fear from an enemy.

Anonymous said...

In most east asian cultures white is the color of death. This is an interesting concept and I think that it describes death better than the black of western countries. White implies an absence of something. It is the white page that has not been drawn on, white cloth that has not been dyed, the white cloud that does not rain. White implies a stillness, an absence. Black is presence. There is no color more real than black. In the ancient egyptian tradition black was the color of life (the color of the life-giving mud the Nile washed up every flood season). Black is the color of earth, the color of old blood, the color of a stage and everything around it. Westerners call death black because of the negative conotation and the connection with the night. But white describes death better: a mere absence of life

But anyway, to get the earth of the matter: Death masks are white because white implies abscence. Black is the color of war masks because the color black makes them seem more there than they really are.

uglyblackjohn said...

@ brohammas - I thought I'd find more Black tribes in white-face.
But ir seems that "Black is Bad" is universal.
Black Witch Doctors wear white-face though.

@ Anon - Damn... Break it down..

Anonymous said...

It is actually much more simple than all this- Death masks were commonly made through plaster casts. White is simply the neutral color for plaster casting & while we can plaster cast in many colors now: the technology was lacking and there would be little point to. The other common way death masks were done was in wax which could easily be in other colors. However there are still draw backs there: 1)we now see significantly fewer of them around in general because wax doesn't hold up at well. 2)The extra cost of pigments. 3) a simple white casting allows for ease to see details better. No greater meaning here- just logic and utility.