This face mask (burgu_ryasi) was specially created in 1999 and gifted to Dr. Reem Tariq el Mutwalli, by Sheikha Hamda bint Mohammed Al Nahyan, maternal aunt to the late Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
It was presented to Dr. Reem during her Ph.D. research on the evolution of dress in the UAE, which culminated in the publication of the book: Sultani. Traditions Renewed. which focuses on women’s traditional dress In the United Arab Emirates during the reign of the late Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, 1966-2004.
The overall shape (gardhah) of the face mask (burgu) follows the (yasi) style, named after Yas tribe. The indigo-dyed (nil) burqu fabric is found in grades of bluish to purple, which is then rubbed and pounded to produce a metallic lustre ranging from yellow to brown to reddish gold.
The indigo dye would stain the wearer’s face after repeated wear which meant a cloth lining, usually made from cotton, was inserted underneath the traditional face mask burgu to prevent this. By the 1980s the trend changed to using sticky strips of masking tape (lazig), which were superseded at the turn of the century by clear transparent adhesive sheets, cut to shape, as can be seen in this example.
This face mask burgu is decorated with gold embellishments (hruf) or (mshakhis) and (niyum), they are hand-sewn in two parallel lines on the top edge in line with the eyebrows. The top line is composed of 23 small round discs, 10 mm in diameter, with a protruding convex central portion creating a bulging centre that resembles stars, hence it is known as niyum. They form a straight line across (17 pieces), that curves down on both the left (3 pieces) and right edges (3 pieces). This is followed by another line of 12 discs, 15 mm in diameter, stamped with a coin print of calligraphic forms called hruf or mshakhis. The mask burgu is fastened to the head using a braided golden metallic cord known as (shbuch).
This represents a physical example of the traditional Arabic saying (zinah_wa_khazinah), meaning ‘beauty and wealth in one’. The gold was employed to demonstrate style and reflect social status, but could also be melted down and sold in times of need.
Blog: The Story Behind The Mask