The Healing of Maskmaking

Emerging from Emergency: Mask-making transforms kids, classrooms and communities in Crisis
By Maskworx



On February 22, 2011, a 6.3 magnitude quake rocked Christchurch, New Zealand. At least 75 people died and many buildings collapsed. This impacted schools in the city and area. This is the story of how one art teacher dealt with the healing process with her students as well as others around the world dealing with their own crisis.


ButterflyButterfly Quake Mask by Manning Intermediate


Creative Director's Commentary - "Emergency
Maskmaking" in Troubling Times:

Quake Mask Project in Canterbury
Black Saturday Bushfires in Victoria
At Risk Girls in Cambodia
Goddess Masks in India
Domestic Violence in Nicaragua
Gang Wives in Christchurch
Pandora's Box
Hands-on Practical & Emotional Literacy

Forward by Natalie Johnston, Art Teacher, Christchurch South Intermediate School

Hello newbie and novice mask-makers; more and more we are discovering the value of making masks in times of crisis, stress and loss...


And when personal loss (Loss with capital 'L') starts leading us around on a leash, then it's time to do something practical and mindful...


Research shows it may take up to two years before symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder show up in survivors following a traumatic episode or disastrous event.


To address the largely unseen "aftermath injury" (the emotional fallout that remains long after the physical injuries have healed) why not make a mask to tell your story?


BusLeft: Bus image supplied by Tall Poppies


Mask-making works like a tour bus - you revisit what has happened (whatever the devastation may be), you plot a pathway through it (using the Multimask® starter base, plus a map of the creative pathway), then you arrive at some form of resolution (a step closer to recovery).


This final eNews for 2011 samples some of the "emerge from emergency" mask projects covered thus far in classrooms and communities here in New Zealand and overseas...

Quake Masks in Canterbury


Right: Treasured Quake Mask by Riccarton Primary


Quake MaskThis year a good proportion of our mask-making projects were done in the Canterbury quake zone where, in February, "a giant eraser" earthquake wiped out the central business district as well as much of the eastern suburbs of Christchurch.


Through making Debrief & Development Masks in schools we have learned so much we put together a not-boring-or-sad-guide to emergency mask-making (publication pending).


"Congratulations on developing and delivering the emergency mask-making model to Christchurch school children. The earthquakes have inspired a great variety of creative responses, which has brought real comfort and support to our city."

Bob Parker, Mayor, Christchurch City


Black Saturday Bushfires in Victoria



Left: Bushfires Story by Mount Martha Primary


Eighteen months after the tragic bush fires of 2009 in Victoria, 7 Australian schools made myths & legends masks, and whilst not strictly 'crisis masks', some of these mask stories referenced the terrible bush fires.


Studying local myths and legends is a good way to prepare for the next natural disaster. Disaster preparedness is a HOT topic right now!



At Risk Girls in Cambodia



Right: Mask-making in Phnom Penh


Cambodia was once the heart of a great empire in South East Asia but the Khymer Rouge communist regime lead by Pol Pot from 1975-78 changed all that with the savage deaths of 21% of the Cambodian population in "The Killing Fields". The regime destroyed the protecting framework of traditional Khymer life leaving young girls easily preyed upon.


Today Cambodia is emerging and the image above shows young women are bringing a new face to the reconstruction. Even the security guard made a mask in this class!


Goddess Masks in India


Left: Mask-making in Jaipur


Early marriage, early pregnancy, illiteracy and life-long poverty all contribute to an early death, issues still continuing to face young Indian women today.


The above image shows a class in one of the slum districts of Jaipur making "goddess masks". Annette's sister Lynne is the project leader.



Domestic Violence in Nicaragua


Right: Mask-making in Nicaragua


NicaraguaA group of Nicaraguan women were each given two Multimasks® with which to portray how it feels to be on the receiving end of abuse.


The image above shows how abuse leaches the colour out, diminishing one's potential. We can also see how creative expression brings back the vibrant colour.


The mask is a larger than life representation, and it's through this kind of symbolic work that women begin to show and grow their potential again (after abuse renders them smaller than life meant them to be).


Gang Wives in Christchurch

Gang Wives

Left: Mumzy Mask in Christchurch

The Mumzy's Group in Christchurch make 'identity' masks together.



Lifting the lid on Pandora's Box



Right: Pandora's Box Mask by Meadowbank School


While Canterbury was sifting through the "rubble of trouble" following real life disaster, Meadowbank School in Auckland made Pandora's Box masks to portray disease, sadness, despair and death.


Students chose dark colours, black, grey blue, purple and brown to symbolize SADNESS (above). Some children chose the tear drop as symbol of despair, while others chose the rainbow as symbol of HOPE (below)...


Pandora Left: Pandora's Box Mask by Meadowbank School


Hands-on Practical & Emotional Literacy

When grief and loss, fear and uncertainty come into the classroom it is possible to look deeply at "curly topics" not covered by the curriculum. If left unexamined these curly topics may morph into a "hidden curriculum".


And yet the 'monster' force melts quite easily if tackled early with the creative force!


Children prefer to get their issues out into the open. When we offered quake kids the option of expressing their feelings on the reverse side of the mask so no-one could see it, none took up this offer. Totally unabashed they all wanted to strut their stuff!


The Mask is the primary hands-on practical and emotional literacy tool for "facing the unthinkable." Just because IT is unthinkable, does not mean it is 'unpicturable!'


Mask-making activities can capture the complexities of the difficulties being faced. Recovery is just around the corner... where you can put your "happy face" back on!!


Pippy the HippieRight: Pippy the Hippie by Columbia College


If your class or community needs a helping hand to face the 'unthinkable' email Annette at and she will put a Starter Pack together to help you kick-start the creative response to crisis.


Alternatively, visit our website [UPDATE July 8, 2013 - Company is no longer in business]


Don't be shy, anyone can do it (with a good measure of support from us)!!

More images of "emergency" masks




Mask Close-ups


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