Safi Ethanol Cooker



 Coastweek website


Impressive collection of ethnic ritual masks exhibited in Athens

By Valentini Anagnostopoulou  ATHENS (Xinhua) -- This February, art lovers in Athens have the chance to peek into one of the richest and most important private collections of ritual masks and artifacts not only in Greece, but worldwide according to experts.

Some 75 impressive masks and accessories, such as musical instruments, jewels and hats from 5 continents, all belonging to Fotis Kaggelaris’ 1,000-item collection, are on display until next weekend in the showroom of the Athens School of Fine Arts.

“[The artifacts] make part of ceremonies that mark important events of the tribe, of the community, or of people’s personal lives. For example, they are part of hunting ceremonies, circumcision ceremonies in Africa and other places, or more personal rituals that help dispel a disease or make a labour safer, for example,” Kaggelaris told Xinhua in a recent interview.

Contrary to the West’s perception, a mask is not only an accessory put on the face: some of them resemble full-body outfits, some are worn on other parts of the body or are meant to be simply held, hung on a tree or displayed in prominent positions of the private or public space.

“The mask serves the personification of magical, supernatural powers that are materialised through it and are used in order to either bring a blessing to the community or chase away the evil,” Kaggelaris explained. It is the enforcement of human desire upon nature, against which he feels powerless, the collector added.

Made of all sorts of natural materials, such as wood, stone, paper, shells and clay, each item is unique, bears a special symbolism and is often designed to naturally decompose after its ceremonial use, explained Kaggelaris, who has devoted decades of his life in tracking down and rescuing the masks.

Kaggelaris, who is a doctor of Psychopathology and comes from a background of psychoanalytic studies, recounts that his love of masks began in his student years in Paris, where he had the chance to admire ethnic artifacts from all over the world at the Museum of Vincennes.

But the actual collection started by mere coincidence, when one of his African classmates offered to sell him a mask he had brought from Africa in order to gain some much-needed money. Kaggelaris gave him the money without taking the mask, but in a gesture of appreciation, the classmate returned from his next summer vacation in Africa with a talisman mask as a gift for him.

This mask hit a sensitive chord and clicked with Kagelaris’ passion for modern art movements, which were in a constant, fruitful dialogue with the Primitive Arts.

But, apart from his artistic pursuits, the mask collection was fueled by Kaggelaris’ passion for travels, as it is the fruit of a painstaking quest around the globe. His main motive has been collecting not only objects, but also travels and unique experiences.

“If I didn’t travel, I wouldn’t get the masks. I was never interested in buying or trading masks at bazaars or online. What I wanted was to go to their birthplace, to negotiate the masks and feel that I am entrusted with them. Apart from the narrative a mask bears in itself, I wanted there to be a narrative of my own story of how I acquired it,” he highlighted.

From his part, the Athens School of Fine Arts (ASFA) Dean Panos Charalambous, who is also the exhibition’s curator, underlined the significance of the event. As he explained, ASFA is a neoclassical type of School, meaning that its students mainly get their creative stimuli from Western art, and exhibitions like this one are potentially game-changing.

“This is an exceptional chance for [our students] to get acquainted with forms and rituals that can nourish and enrich the learning process,” he stressed.

“Folklore art and different cultures in general can fuel a more educated, finer or higher -so to speak- culture, which leads to the conclusion that there are not high and low cultures, but only different cultures,” Charalambous concluded.

Remember: you read it first at !


Please contact

MOMBASA - GULSHAN JIVRAJ, Mobile: 0722 775164 Tel: (+254) (41) 2230130 /
Wireless: 020 3549187 e-mail:

NAIROBI - ANJUM H. ASODIA, Mobile: 0733 775446 Tel: (+254) (020) 3744459

    © Coastweek Newspapers Limited               Tel: (+254) (41) 2230130  |  Wireless: 020 3549187  |  E-mail: