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The Arbutus Visage Collection

During my time as Good Food Ireland 'Ambassador of the Decade', I have traveled across Europe and South Africa. Everywhere I went I have collected additions to the Arbutus Visage Collection. 

You can view my full collection click the photo below.


Any comments would be gratefully received



Declan Ryan  



This is a very personal collection of images from all over the world, the earliest were works created by a young art student, which were pieces to instil fear and awe in those who saw them. A friend who worked in the Third World shuddered when she saw them because for her many of them had connotations of power and black magic. Deep belief was a factor with a lot of the masks while many of the later ones were there to tell a story. Belief in the dance whilst wearing them has disappeared from many of the communities and in many cases the mask itself is no longer powerful without the rest of the costume made of raffia, textiles, animal hides or feathers.


At times of conflict in the village they could be part of the mediation process or to create fear, for instance in a search for witches. A large number of the masks were worn at funerals to revere ancestors or the dead, this was their prime function. Some were to make an audience laugh, but the masks have moved the viewer over time for many reasons.


A visit to the African Collection at the British Museum made me take them more seriously than before. As to the origin of many of the masks, it is a matter of conjecture, so any information would be gratefully received. Some are so typical of their region they are easy to identify but others even the museum cannot tell.


On a recent visit to the Vienna Biennale I was surprised to find 8 tribal masks and artefacts as part of the exhibits; even now artists are still being influenced by them.


Sternview Gallery at Nash 19 is located in the heart of Cork City

Gallery hours:

Monday – Friday 7:30am – 4pm

Saturday 8:30am – 4pm

And by appointment

(Closed Sundays)


The exhibition will run until February 23rd 2016

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