Mask      Festivals

Canela festivals, which are really pageants, sometimes lasting several months, portray the Canela way of life as well as most of their beliefs, values, and roles. Click on photos to enlarge.

Opening W?t Season Festival

The Canela festival season is the dry, summer "W?t" season. The opening begins with hostilities between men and women. The men leave to hunt, and when they return with the meat hung on a tall pole, the women struggle to push it down and cut off the meat with knives.

Meat on Pole
Meat hung on tall poles, 1971.
After the Opening W?t festival lasting two days, one of the five great W?t season festivals commences in late March through May.

Five Great W?t Season Festivals

The captions are very brief. Please follow the link to the monograph for a fuller explanation of these festivals.


[The novices] wear headbands on the backs of their heads with two, or three, or sometimes even five, macaw tail feathers pointed upwards.


Sunset, silhouetting the macaw tail feathers, 1958.

[The novices] make Formal Friends and Informal Friends by either entering the water looking away from each other in shame, or by going into the water together, coming up facing each other in Informal Friendship.


Men Jumping into Water
Young men, facing each other, jump into the water, 1975.

The dramatic daily act of the Pepkahk troop is to file counter clockwise around the village just outside of the circle of houses to collect food in the late afternoon. They march by with great pride, looking neither to the right or left, nor up or down, and keeping very serious faces, demonstrating their superior status.


Line of Men
Serious-faced troop.

There are seven groups in the plaza. The Stingrays, the Otters, and the Fish are on the east, while the Piranha, the Tepr-?ti and Tep are on the west. The Clowns are on the northern edge. They all build fine houses, with the exception of the Clowns, who build a crooked house to demonstrate what is wrong.


Crooked House
Really crooked house, 1964.
At the end of the festival the Clowns build a weir and try to catch the Fish as they escape from it. The Fish dodge, but eventually are caught by a Clown snatching away the fish-shaped baskets they carry.


Men Pretending to be Fish
Fish dodging on their way from the weir, 1960.

At the end of this festival, which requires participants to make masks of palm fiber with two horns on top, a grand parade of the society of Masks is staged.


Parade of Masks
Parade of Masks, 1960.
Closing W?t festival

The W?t season closes with several parts, one of which is when the Little Falcon swings on a vine attached to a pole above a cage shaped like an early Canela foragers hut.



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Little Falcon 
Little Falcon, "flying" off the cage.


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