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In Aliano,during the  S.Antonio carneval period from the 17th of january until Shrove Tuesday,all the inhabitants participate in making the masks and costums and organizing the  fashion show.The preparation of the masks lasts many months;they are made with papier-machè and clay and represent animal faces,personalized by who makes them.Real art laboratories of masks were created where many students from primary and secondary school participate still today.
The essential elements which form the masks are also the “cappellone”,the costums,and the”cupa cupa”an instrument used by the characters.The mask is made with coloured  papier-machè with a big nose and the typical horns.Using a mask is the most ancient way that men know to abandon their identity and take on another one,completely different.Disguising as an animal permitted to the prehistorical hunters to camouflage themselves and surprise the prey,but also to assume powers and qualities of animals during the rituals.

While wearing the mask men identified themselves in the divinity or the subject represented on the mask,cancelling their identity.This is why men created masks,to open a communication between their world and the mystical world.The cappellone has a cone shape and  is made with a reed structure covered with carton and decorated with coloured tissue paper ribbons.On top it has rooster feathers and paper flowers and is tied to the face with leather strings.The Cupa Cupa is a musical instrument made with a terracotta recepient covered with a cloth and a long and thin pipe.The sound comes out rubbing a hand on the pipe and making  it vibrate.
The masked characters wear winter trousers called mutandun,a white wool sweater and gloves.They wear a shawl on their shoulders,country boots and a leather shaft,typical shepherd clothes.They wear a leather belt on their chest from where bronze bells hang,used for the animals.On their waste they have a rope,once made of braided donkey hair.In their hand they hold the pllaccj,a stick made of essicated goat skin.



Thematic areas Demoethnoantropological (traditions,rituals)
Cultural interest evaluation

arrive,marking the beggining of the carnival.The horned masks of Aliano aren’t the only ones of the carnival of Basilicata but similar ones exist,like the ones of Tricarco,San Mauro Forte,Cirigliano or Satriano di Lucania.The fact that the costums,the masks and their way of moving were transmitted to our days is astonishing.This testifies a ritual able to evocate in who watches arcaic images and far ecos;as Rocco Scotellaro,a poet from Basilicata wrote:”the sound of a primitive celebration that enters in the guts as an endless remote call”.The masks were object of interest of antropological and communitary traditions researchers,and this year they were in Venice where they came to the attention of thousands of turists.

They walk in the town streets doing”big jumps”as Carlo Levi wrote,and”scream like wild animals,getting exited for their same screams”and are joined from the music of accordiums and Cupa cupas.

Context Looking at the masks and the way they jump and moo in the town streets,the people look like a human herd.Behind this mask infact it is possible to individuate the primitive dialectical relationship between men and animals,consequence of the pastoral social economic system that always characterized Basilicata,and it is also possible to find analogies with the pastoral culture and with the magic linked to it.Here the pastoral identity stayed the same during the centuries.In a reality where everything always changes and the traditions seem not to find a place,this was possible only thanks to the continuous repetition of celebrations,rituals,fables and proverbs.To understand better these traditions and their context,we have to name the first one who talked about the pastoral system of aliano  and who let the rest of Italy know about it:Carlo Levi.
When Levi arrived in Basilicata he discovered an unknown world to him and to Italy and his book “Christ stopped in Eboli”became the identity card of a clandestine universe,unconciously alive,that asked for redemption and recognition from a long hibernation wanted from political,social and cultural institutions not interested in the redemption of the farmers and of the poor people.Actually the more people were poor the more they were functional for cultural egemony projects of the directive classes of those twenty years.He found himself in front of a world that lived outside time and history,far from progress,a pre -christian world,an arcaic community,far,black,primitive,where time didn’t arrive,the state was an obstacle,life was miserable and full of magic and the farmers had a passive attitude.
As Levi explained,the inhabitants of Aliano in 1930’s lived in a sort of natural freedom(etimologically intended),a state of nature,typical of a world closed to history.This freedom  is concilable with an ancient and primordial world of a universe excluded from the cristian civilization,half way between human and animal world.This is why the rural communities disguised themselves with masks,to find solutions to excorcize the risks of the pastoral enviroment.The animal masks made the human condition redemption possible.For example the shepherd,afraid that his animals could posess him,tried to exorcize this risk,making the wild ridiculous and joking about it,transforming the monstrous into a carnival mask.
Description of the managment mode We discovered through the stories of the locals(because there aren’t any documents or photos)that in ancient times the masks were made with wood and the hair of the cappellone was made with pieces of paper for bread or newspapers.Also,there wasn’t much difference between one mask and another,infact they were similar and had these features:a hooked nose,a sticking out chin,high cheekbone and forehead.
Significant features The masks of Aliano are an historical item,culturally and demoantropologically important for the population,the researchers,the reporters,photografers who study and reproduce the essential elements of the fashion shows,which are the masks and the cappellone(that can change depending on the immagination of the author),while the other elements,the costums and the cupa cupa,remain the same.
Bibliography Articolo basilicatatour. Aliano ed il Carnevale - 15 gennaio 2009 - "Dante Alighieri articolo "Il carnevale di Aliano" - 2 marzo 2014 - - "Il carnevale della tradizione lucana" - "Le maschere cornute" - 2011 - "Viaggio nell'arcaico e suggestivo carnevale lucano delle maschere cornute di Aliano" - Enzo Garofalo - 8 marzo 2014 - - Carnevale di Alaino - Redazione - 30 gennaio 2014 - La sfilata delle maschere cornute -


Safeguard plan proposed

Participation of the community         
All the community of Aliano and the surrounding towns of Basilicata wait for this event,but most of all italian and foreign tourists.


Where to eat

Setting up

Fonte: APT Basilicata

Additional Info

  • Category: Historical itinerary
  • Month: February
  • Place: Aliano