White Masks’ Procession

White Masks is a carnival custom from the village of Putnikovići on the Pelješac peninsula. The custom is based on a legend that goes back to the times when military campaigns were taking place in this area (the Turkish army has been mentioned as a protagonist, but that story has not been confirmed). Multiple armies passed these territories, taking with them as prisoners many inhabitants of Pelješac. Among them was a young man from Putnikovići, who was forced to leave his fiancée behind. As they were bidding each other farewell, he asked the girl to pledge her faithfulness to him, which she did. Time passed, and the girl heard no news of her beloved. She had many suitors but she rejected them all, waiting for her fiancé to come back. After a long time had passed, the young man fled from captivity and managed to find his way back to Putnikovići, where carnival was taking place. Wearing a mask, he came to his fiancée’s home. When he made sure of her fidelity, he set a wedding date. On the wedding day, a masked group carrying swords gathered and came for the girl.

The legend still lives on. Each year, in the period preceding the carnival, a group of men from Putnikovići gathers to practise the white masks’ dance. On Carnival Sunday (the Sunday before the big or final carnival), they dress in the white suits from which they got their name. In pairs, forming a wedding procession, the white masks visit all the hamlets of Putnikovići in a pre-arranged order. They are accompanied by one of the village’s more notable men, who is unmasked and whose role is to announce their arrival and departure by shooting from a type of old-fashioned pistol called a kubura. At the head of the procession there is a barjaktar (flag bearer) who – once the procession has entered a hamlet – hands the flag to the village host who keeps it during the dance. When all the ritual actions have been performed, the dance begins. After the dance, the white masks reveal their faces and dance a polka with the village girls dressed in folk costumes. The hosts then invite the masks to join them at the table filled with food prepared especially for them by diligent housewives. A shot from the kubura announces it is time to set off for the next hamlet, where it all starts from the beginning.


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Panorama Lastova i Poklad na uzi, ožujak 2011. (foto: Stjepan Tafra)Lastovo

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