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During Halloween week we explored the history of masks through several cultures and periods from ancient Egypt, and Japan to contemporary Native American ceremonies performed with masked dancers representing clouds, rain spirits, stars, earth mother, and animals. Every culture throughout history has had some form of ritual including masks. The oldest is thought to be around 40,000 years old. Most of the early masks were carved and made of shells and natural fibers. All aspects of human nature are represented in masks, from funerary masks to those used in Theater and celebrations. Throughout Europe and Latin America, masks are associated with annual festivals like Halloween, Day of the Dead and especially those generated by religious and seasonal changes like Carnival and Mardi Gras. Masks have been a large influence on art as well. During the early 1900s, the aesthetics of traditional African sculpture became a powerful influence among European artists who formed an avant-garde in the development of modern art. In France, Matisse, Pablo Picasso, and their School of Paris friends blended African sculptures with painting styles derived from the post-Impressionist works of Manet, Cezanne, and Gauguin. While these artists knew nothing of the original meaning and function of the West and Central African sculptures they encountered, but they instantly recognized the spiritual aspect of the composition and adapted these qualities to their efforts to move art beyond the style that had defined Western art since the Renaissance. The influence spread to America, and many artists of the 20th century were also influenced by African masks and carvings.