Our New Mask Culture – A Symbol of Change

Updated: Jan 26

Co-Authored by Renée Ralph and Alrick Dorett


Mask wearing is a necessity in 2020. Who would have thought? As we walk the streets with masks on, we pass by people and occasionally, we may think we recognise someone, but we are unsure. We look into their eyes, and notice a raised eyebrow, or a smile forming with their eyes.

“The eyes are the window to your soul” - William Shakespeare Gazing into their eyes, we can tell whether a person is sad or happy. As the mouth behind the masks curls up, the eyes are smiling. If one is feeling sad, another person can view the melancholy state of mind, even if you are covering up. We become better observers and listeners when our mouths are concealed as the rest of our visual and audio sensory abilities take over.

Mask as a primeval human practice

For over 7 millenniums since men have walked the earth, the ancient world use masks in rituals or ceremonies. It is a primeval human practice. Masks have been connected with hidden identities, nestling in the realms of good and evil.

Mask protects from transmission

For decades, the law decreed that bank customers are not allowed to wear sunglasses to cover their faces as full facial identification is required. This rule prevented bank robbers from barging into the vicinity. Now the new directive for masks to be worn at all times when entering the bank hoping to curb the spread of COVID19. A mask in these times is a key measure to suppress transmission and to save lives in America, France, Italy, Singapore and some states in Australia. Masks reduce potential exposure risk from an infected person. A mask protects you as well as it protects others.

Mask gives confidence Sporting a mask can also offer relief to the person that is not comfortable with their looks, like a birthmark perhaps on the face or other forms of deformities. A mask removes the physical discrimination of an individual. Everyone looks more or less the same. Uniformity in appearances except for the eyes that becomes the blueprint of your being.

A parent shared that her son who has a cleft lip, was elated with wearing the mask when it became a compulsory ruling in Singapore. Her son became confident as everyone looks the same and hiding behind the mask gave him strength. He feels normal when speaking to others as their eyes are not pinpointing to his cleft lip that was stitched up badly. His superpowers will be lost once the mask is off and he is left with his humanity to manage the discomfort he faces daily. We all wear masks, our true identity is often hidden behind the masks we wear, with ourselves safely concealed beneath, to hide our true self even from our family. "Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth". Oscar Wilde

Mask as a symbol of action and change In this tide of change, a mask is not merely an accessory, it becomes a shield to an individual. Symbolically a mask becomes a caption representing an individual’s armour and valour. We have masks that demonstrate a value proposition linked to a human being or a cause. Masks become the revolutionary flags of democracy that spurs the spirit of human decency and survival. Masks are also part of a creative process titled “Mask Art” initiated by UNESCO. Individuals who can sew have fashioned home-made masks to be used personally or sold commercially.



At present, masks are worn for security, protection, in hunting, in sports, disguise, arts and entertainment. It seems to be comfortable in one’s skin, wearing a disguise seems to be the norm – just like the superheroes that some of us grew up to idolise – Superman vs Clarke Kent, Wonder Woman vs Diana Prince, Batman vs Bruce Wayne – the alter egos are necessary to shield themselves from the unknown. Don Diego de la Vega masks himself to become Zorro, an ethnic hero who is wise and brave with his horse, Tornado. Zorro represents the vigilante spirit of doing good that supports his Spanish and Mexican people. It offers the anonymity to do good as a human. By wearing a mask, we too can use our superpowers to do good.

Mask divides the rich and the poor



In the fashion industry, Chanel and Louise Vuitton designer masks have arrived for the sassy

– that have fabricated the fake designer masks craze. The mask is also a mark for only the citizens of this world who can afford it or have access to it. So where the masks protect some, it leaves open for discussion the rest of the communities that do without. India has recorded 7.6 million people with COVID19 and there are not many masks to go around of that quantity even though WHO has recommended the use of masks. Imagine the health infrastructure supporting these millions of people and children deprived of help during this pandemic? It is a diabolical circumstance. Covering up can only do so much as the reality of situation is grave. COVID19 does not choose who or what it reaches and infects – the gap between the haves-and-have-nots widens in our world.

The minority, poor and marginalised communities may not have accessibility to masks, let alone clean water to drink, put food on the table, sanitise their hands frequently and implement physical distancing in overcrowded squalors - an issue that us, global citizens have to address together. Hopefully, when we wear our masks, it is a call

to action towards supporting our disadvantaged communities.






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