Mandela to feature at Rio Carnival

By Drum Digital
19 February 2014

With a little less than two weeks to go before the start of the world famous Rio de Janeiro Carnival, preparations at one masks factory are in full swing.

The factory specialises in masks of famous Brazilian and international figures from all walks of life alive, deceased and fictitious.

Much of the time, the factory produces masks strictly based on the demand of what is popular.

Despite the changing fashions that come year in and year out, some characters remain infinitely popular.

For example, music legend John Lennon remains a traditional favourite.

One of the factory artists said when making the mask molds they try to create the most recognisable likeness of the personality in question.

"Every face, look has its marks and expressions. So, this is what we will create, the identical face or the ideal caricature," the worker said.

Mask factory owner Olga Valles said her artists were working on masks harkening back to one of Brazil's biggest government corruption trials from two years ago, referred to as "mensalao". But she added that South Africa's revered former President Nelson Mandela was one of the most popular masks this year.

"We are continuing with the theme of 'mensalao', but it isn't a strong year for politicians. Last year was much stronger. But we are selling Joaquim Barbosa, [Jose] Dirceu and [Jose] Genio.

Those are the three of the moment, and we are also selling [Nelson] Mandela. We have had these mask for many years but we have never sold so many. There has never been a year with this much demand since his death in 2013. We received a lot of orders to make Mandela," said Spanish born Olga Valles, 55.

Valles has been the factory owner since 1994. Her late husband founded the business 55 years ago, but since his passing she has been running it with her two sons.

During the Carnival period, Valles and the 25 people she employs churn out more than 300,000 masks and costumes.

Rio de Janeiro's Carnival celebrations will officially start on February 28. The main event will be at the iconic Sambodrome, where dozens of samba schools will compete for the Carnival 2013 crown, but around the city there will be hundreds of street parties, each one with a specific theme.

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- Reuters

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