Behind the Mask

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Venice– a city of culture and art, flooded with tourists hoping to witness this engineering marvel. The canals, acting like veins pumping new life into the city as each new boat of tourists arrives. The crisscrossing network of bridges and alleyways are where one can get lost in beauty of corbel stone and street merchants selling their craftsmanship on luxury goods. There is rawness in the way Venetian’s live their life, uninhabited by the street traffic, shopping centres and skyscrapers we have now become accustom to.

This heritage site  of stone and Gothic architecture holds on tight to its roots in the past. An icon on the Venetian calendar– is Venice Carnival, taking over the island during the period before Lent, overwhelming the city with colour, dance and costume. But beneath the mask of festivities lays a history that many would miss. A city once known for its artists and intellects, for the wealthy and noble, Venice held an incredibly strict hierarchical system as an independent nation. The Carnival was formed as an outlet for freedom, for the rich and poor to disguise their unacceptable or forbidden behaviours behind their masks. In the peak of Venice, they had the ability to entice Europe with music and artwork. Yet it lost its charm in the 19th century, when the population diminished and the city’s independence was dissolved.

The revival of the Venice Carnival in 1979 reflected the efforts of the Italian government to restore the history and culture back into Venice. But it brought back more than just a tradition, with the return of the Carnival came a sense of identity, an identifiable icon bringing an abundance of new business and tourists. As the 2014 Venice Carnival has come to a close, it has once again shown how this festival is not only celebrating the history of costumes and masks, but celebrating the Venetian image – how the Venetians are portrayed to the outside world.


One thought on “Behind the Mask

  1. Why did the government want to restore the carnival? Was it about celebrating identity … or attracting tourism?
    There’s a really interesting book about the carnival in 16th century France that goes into the issues about rich and poor – ‘Carnival in Romans’ by Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie.

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