Title: Upe mask

Date: ca. 1995
Culture: Tapirape (Amazonia)
Material: macaw feathers, wood, shell, cotton, clay, plant fibers
Size: 32” H x 48” W
Credit: Gift of Don Herron
On View: No

The Tapirape are a small tribe, with a population of about 600. They live deep in the Amazon rainforest west of the Araguaia River and north of the Tapirape River.

The upe mask is their most elaborate ceremonial instrument. Traditionally, the Tapirape used the masks at the beginning of the dry season to celebrate the spirits of Karaja and Kayapo warriors that they killed in battle. However, since about 1940, the masks have been used to celebrate deceased members of the Tapirape. 

Today, upe masks are often made specifically for sale to non-natives—albeit with a few stylistic modifications. For example, some masks feature a green cross on a yellow field, a reference to the Brazilian flag. This mask was also made for sale. The crown features two rows of feathers, as opposed to the traditional, single row of feathers.