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IMACO International Conference in Bacolod

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IMACO (International Mask Arts & Culture Organization) held the 7th IMACO International Conference in Bacolod, Philippines from 5th to 8th November 2019. 

The City of Bacolod is where the MassKara Festival, the Philippines’ most representative and largest mask festival, takes place. The city is known as the “City of Smiles”, and it was selected as the next venue at the 6th IMACO International Conference in Vientiane, Lao PDR. 

Since its establishment in 2006, IMACO – the only UNESCO accredited NGO on mask culture – has held an international conference every two years. IMACO hosted the first international conferences in Andong City (Korea) in 2006, followed by others in Bangkok (Thailand) in 2009, in Singaraja (Indonesia) in 2011, in Thimphu (Bhutan) in 2013, in Shanghai (China) in 2015, and in Vientiane (Laos) in 2017. This November, IMACO held the 7th International Conference in Bacolod (Philippines). 

After the 6th International Conference in Vientiane (Laos), the 7th international conference was allowed to use UNESCO’s patronage and ICH emblem. The usage of the UNESCO’s patronage and the ICH emblem provides an opportunity to promote the importance of mask cultures, a universal culture of mankind, as well as Andong City as “the Mecca of the world’s mask culture”.

Under the theme of “Inside and Outside of Mask Culture; Mask, Practice, and Culture”, the conference drew 120 participants including mask related scholars, officials, and mask performers from 17 countries. 

In particular, a policy forum was held under the theme of “Sustainable Development of Mask Culture”. Furthermore, an academic symposium was conducted under the theme of “Inside and Outside of Mask Culture: Masks, Practice, and Culture”. The symposium’s aim was to deepen research in the field of mask culture from broader perspectives, including issues such as the origin, transmission, myths, rituals, communities, performers, craft, preservation of mask and its culture – thus going beyond the traditional focus of “practice” research. 

Celebrating the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Korea and the Philippines, special performances – including those of Hahoe Mask Dance Drama (Korea), Bukcheong Lion Dance (Korea), K-pop (Korea), Face-changing (China), and MassKara Dance (Philippines) – were shown to the public. 

Starting from the first day of the international conference, the World Mask Exhibition, which displays about 400 masks from all over the world, will be held until the end of this year – at the special request of the City of Bacolod. 

Young-sae Kweon, President of IMACO and Mayor of Andong City, said that IMACO will play its role as a UNESCO accredited NGO in informing international society of the importance of preservation and promotion of the disappearing mask culture, especially by inscribing Korean mask dances in UNESCO ICH lists. 

Evelio Leonardia, Mayor of Bacolod City, said that “We in Bacolod are proud that our MassKara festival, although only forty years old, has been accepted as a member of IMACO, whose membership is composed of nations and communities whose mask culture dates back to centuries earlier. We believe that these diversified cultural expressions of our masks created our respective identities as a nation, as a community and as a group – making our world more colorful and beautiful.”

Although Turkey, India, Jordan, Peru, and many countries have expressed their desire to host the 8th IMACO International Conference in 2021, Andong City, the president’s city, was selected as the next venue, in which IMACO’s 15th anniversary will be celebrated.

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