Appearances. Colors (4)

The Asaro tribe covers his body with mud and uses diabolic masks in order to frighten his enemy tribe.

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Up to now, we have seen how the language of colours conveys messages and helps in different situations where communication is necessary. But wherever there is communication there are also lies and deceit. On occasions, giving the wrong impression can save your life. That is a lesson the Asaro, a Papuan tribe, learnt some time in the distant past. 
As always in Papua, they commemorate that event by reproducing it every year, so that the oral tradition is not lost. 

According to the legend, the Asaro village was constantly being attacked by the ferocious warriors of a neighbouring clan. They were living in permanent dread of the final, decisive attack, when an old man had a dream in which he saw horrific grey beings. 
Then, they had the idea of disguising themselves with mud and covering their heads with masks of diabolic appearance. Dressed like this, they approached the enemy village and scared them off for ever. 
There are many similar stories in the history of mankind, and the decisive factor in the outcome is always the same: our fear of  the unknown. 

The fact is, having - or pretending to have - a ferocious appearance can serve to dissuade many enemies, and often avoids the need to fight in order to demonstrate your strength. 
These techniques should not be underestimated, as they have been and continue to be used by armies and police forces throughout the world. 
Some animals not only look dangerous, they really are dangerous.

You’d need to be very hungry to try to kill a male warthog. Others, however, use techniques similar to those of the Asaro.
This is one of them. It is a King’s skink, in reality a rather inoffensive, vulnerable Australian lizard; but when it feels threatened, it reacts by taking on a ferocious appearance. 

While for many animals colours serve to reaffirm their group identity, to find a mate, to hunt, to hide or to defend themselves, for human beings it has also long been associated with religious contact with the other world. The ritual masks of the Ivory Coast are not decorative elements or folklore. They are doors which open into the spiritual world, and can only be used by initiated members of the secret societies of each clan. 

Scientists have recently discovered the psychological influences of colours on people. It is known, for example, that red accelerates the heartbeat and causes discharges of adrenaline. 
Advertising uses these hidden meanings of colours to provoke certain reactions in consumers. 
The ancient African masks were right after all - for centuries, they have known how to use the power of colours. 
But for those blind Cuban fish, all of this means nothing at all; their unseeing eyes are unable to interpret the language of colours.

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