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Noh is a performance art that combines dance, instrumentation, poetry, acting and expert costuming – so it’s quite apropos that its name is derived from the Sino-Japanese word for ‘talent’. Dating back to the 14th century, it’s also thought to be perhaps the oldest surviving theatre tradition. Masks are a vital and distinctive aspect of Noh, used to transform performers into a variety of human and otherworldly creatures, but these props are traditionally devoid of facial expression. Instead, performers are tasked with communicating emotion through vocalisation and movement. This video from the YouTube channel Process X, which chronicles production processes across Japan, details the crafting of a traditional Noh mask. The artisan Nakamura Mitsue employs her four decades of experience as she cuts, carves and paints, gradually forging an eerily lifelike human face from a single block of wood.
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