Gheorge, based in Berlin, has made frequent trips to her native Romania to collect folk masks used in annual celebrations between Christmas and New Years. The masks are handmade by masters of the craft whom George has sought out in their villages across the Carpathians, clustered in Bucovina and Transylvania.
The craft is part of a pre- Christian tradition involving dance and mock fighting, during which the masks, made of animal fur, fabrics, bones, and beads are often destroyed. Related to the more famous Krampus monster in Austria, Gheorge’s masks depict elderly figures who are empowered to mark the transitions from life to death, death to rebirth. Gheorge notes that contemporary mask makers have moved away from the fearsome creatures of the past, choosing instead to embrace comical, and even tender, figures.