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Creative Careers Interviews : 2008 : Annette Rose Interview

Mind Tree Mask - Original Artwork by Annette Rose

Creative Careers in the Arts Interviews

Artist Annette Rose, Creative Director of Maskworx Limited

By Molly Anderson-Childers

This month, dear readers, follow me "Down Under" as I interview Annette Rose. She is a New Zealand wonder — an RN, BA (Anthropology), and earned her Masters of Entrepreneurship at the University of Otago.

Annette is also the Creative Director of Maskworx Limited, which was a Finalist in the David Awards in 2008. She is also co-creator of the Multimask System, and is currently working with schools and communities around the world to bring masking into the mainstream.

Q. Annette, welcome to the Creativity Portal! How did you first become interested in working with mask-making as an art form?

A. Tiny, ripped up pictures of masks first started appearing in my collage work about twenty years ago. This was after the death of my mother from breast cancer and I was attending a "Symbols as a Healing Agent" workshop facilitated by Greg Furth, friend and colleague of the late Dr. Elisabeth Kubler Ross. It wasn't long before I wanted to make a mask from scratch, but didn't know how. I asked around, and found there was a scarcity of information. That is how the idea of devising a better, more accessible and sustainable mask-making system began taking shape.

Q. Can you discuss using mask-making as a tool for inspiring other forms of art, including writing and storytelling?

A. Mask making is essentially a dimensional thinking tool; it contains sculptural elements, visual elements, dramatic elements and narrative elements, and the magic of story happens when all these elements come together in an artistic and stylistic way. During the process of making artistic choices and recombining elements, mask makers often experience "losing themselves" in their work. Seeing kids inside the skin of their characters, having "nailed" their characterizations, is utterly inspiring and beautiful to behold. These kids are 'in' their masks, 'in' their characters, 'in' their stories. The transformation we are looking for is when you-are-not-you. If a youngster can master moving out of the way of themselves, they can achieve anything in this world, not just art but enterprise as well.

Kiwi – Created by 8-year-old student at Meadowbank School in Auckland, New Zealand

Q. I love the idea that creating a mask can help someone represent what their cultural heritage means to them, as in the recent program your organization did with the Remuera Intermediate School in New Zealand. Can you tell our readers about this project? What inspired it?

A. By asking the question "what does your culture mean to you?" students get to look through the 'window' of their own home culture. Quite often, whatever is right under our noses stays hidden, so it is worthwhile to explore local culture, to rediscover the beauty of folk customs and how these art forms and rituals play a critical role in the maintenance and nurturing of culture and identity. The challenge today is to teach kids that masks are more than just appealing "exotic" characters to replicate in class. Cultural masks are resilient pieces of heritage art that continue to evolve in vibrant ways.

Q. What process did Remuera students go through in creating their masks and personal narratives? What is the most important thing they learned along the way? Are other projects like this one planned for the future?

A. Remuera School students were encouraged to use their imaginations, observations, memories and interests while making their 'spirit masks'. To further illuminate "the story behind the mask" students also wrote a short story about their narrative masks. We were amazed at the depth and vividness of their portrayals using this double-pronged approach to expressing ideas. One student, who at first didn't want to do it, went on to produce one of the best mask stories based on a colourful Tongan myth! It takes courage to step inside your own stories and share their value, but that's exactly what young people of today are doing. Yes, there are future plans to team up with other schools worldwide and make culture masks and share them online, a virtual exhibition.

Q. Please discuss the role masks played in the Dunedin Midwinter Celebrations Trust this year…it looks like a fabulous event!

A. The Dunedin midwinter lantern procession has grown and grown over the past ten years and as a trustee of the Dunedin Midwinter Celebrations Trust, it is my job to protect and advance the Carnival's artistic vision. Producing a big public spectacle using only folksy visuals and community resources without corporate funding is a challenge but each year freshly themed paper lanterns and simple white masks worn by masked dancers help achieve a gentle, freshly lit kind of enchantment that, in its own way, rivals the big bang wearable art type extravaganza. Work has already started on the event. The theme is a "winter garden."

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