Loei festival next week features international masks

PHOTO: Loei province will host an international mask festival next week. (via TAT)

The northeastern province of Loei is set to host an international mask festival from March 17 to 19. The festival will showcase the cultural attractions of the province that borders Laos. Organisers hope to show visitors the charming atmosphere and vibrant colours of Loei at the three-day event.

Naga courtyard will host the opening ceremony on March 17 at 6pm. The area is located in the Kut Pong Public Park. Carnival masks from seven Asian countries – Cambodia, China, Laos, the Philippines, South Korea, Vietnam, and Thailand – will be highlighted in a parade.

In addition, visitors can witness the “Masks of Three Ghosts” performance that embodies Loei’s cultural identity. These include Phi Ta Khon, Phi Khan Nam, and Phi Bung Tao.

The Phi Ta Khon serves as a means of showing respect to the spirits of ancestors. The costumes are made up of masks and dresses made of bamboo steamers and fabric remnants are sewn together. The masks are intricately painted to look funny and scary, with long, pointed noses made of wood and horns made from dried coconut husks.

The masks known as Phi Khan Nam, which bear a resemblance to buffalo heads, are crafted from wood sourced from cotton and milkwood trees. Intricate and ancient patterns are painted onto these masks. They represent a hairy water ghost.

In contrast, Phi Bung Tao is a massive mask created using gourds and is mounted atop flags woven in the traditional style.

Light and sound shows, outdoor water curtains, and musical fountains will also be displayed, adding colour and excitement to the festival. And for the Instagram generation, there will be designated areas for photos with two- and three-dimensional street art and colourful three ghosts masked characters.

Finally, no festival is complete without food stalls. The market in Loei will feature local cuisine, fusion food, cooking demonstrations, cultural products, locally woven fabrics, and fabrics tailored specifically for international tourists. Additionally, a walking street will be set up to display Thai art and offer souvenir handicrafts for sale.

The Office of Contemporary Art and Culture in Loei and the Ministry of Culture have organised the mask festival. Tourism Authority of Thailand, Rajabhat University, and Loei’s municipality also aided in hosting the event. Other contributors from the provincial government include the cultural office, the chamber of commerce, and the cultural council.

The highlight of the three-day event will be seeing and learning about the three ghosts tradition of the Loei locals. Phi Ta Khon is believed to be a way of summoning the spirits of the ancestors, who are believed to have become guardian angels of the city and could bless the earth with fertility or curse it with famine.

The costumes, including the masks, are meant to make noise when walking and dancing. The masks come in two sizes — small and big — and are always accompanied by a sword or a weapon made of wood.

EventsNorthern Thailand News

Neill Fronde

Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10+ years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.

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