BBC 2024-02-11 18:01:24


Netanyahu insists on Rafah offensive as warnings mount

Israel is facing growing international warnings over its planned offensive in Rafah – the city in southern Gaza crammed with Palestinian refugees.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Israeli military will go ahead with its planned ground offensive, insisting an evacuation plan is being prepared.

UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron said “over half of Gaza’s population are sheltering in the area”.

Saudi Arabia warned of “very serious repercussions” if Rafah was stormed.

Dutch FM Hanke Bruins Slot also warned of “many civilian casualties”, while the United Nations has said there is nowhere safe to go for the more than a million Palestinians who have already fled to Rafah.

Gaza’s Hamas rulers said there could be “tens of thousands” of casualties, warning on Sunday that any operation would also undermine talks about a possible release of Israeli hostages held in the strip.

Israel launched its operations in the Palestinian enclave after more than 1,200 people were killed in southern Israel on 7 October by Hamas gunmen, who also took about 240 people hostage.

On Sunday the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza said 112 more Palestinians had been killed by the Israeli military over the previous day, bringing the overall death toll to more than 28,100 and more than 67,500 injured.

Many Gazans have ended up in Rafah having been forced to flee their homes elsewhere at least once.

Saturday’s warnings came a day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered his military to prepare to evacuate civilians from the city ahead of an expanded offensive against Hamas.

The prime minister also rejected Hamas’s latest proposed ceasefire terms.

In an interview with US broadcaster ABC News aired on Sunday, Mr Netanyahu said “victory is in reach” and the Israeli military were “going to get the remaining Hamas terrorist battalions in Rafah”.

He also said Israel would “provide safe passage” for civilians in the southern city.

When pressed about where they should go, Mr Netanyahu suggested there were “plenty” of areas “that we’ve cleared north of Rafah” and insisted officials were “working out a detailed plan”.

“Those who say that under no circumstances should we enter Rafah are basically saying, ‘Lose the war. Keep Hamas there,'” he added.

  • Israel-Gaza war: Death and Israel’s search for ‘total victory’

The US has already warned Israel that an invasion of Rafah as part of its assault on Gaza would be a “disaster”, while the EU and the UN both expressed their own concerns.

Aid groups say it is not possible to evacuate everyone from the city on the border with Egypt.

UN humanitarian co-ordinator Jamie McGoldrick, who has just been to Gaza to assess the situation, told the BBC’s Barbara Plett Usher that people in Rafah would have “nowhere to go” if Israeli troops launched their offensive.

“The safe areas that were declared are no longer safe. And if these people have to move – where can they move? We are really fearful of the horrific nature of where we are could only ever get worse,” he said.

Some 1.5 million Palestinians are believed to be in Rafah, seeking refuge from Israeli combat operations in the rest of the Gaza Strip. Most of them are living in tents.

In a social media post, Mr Cameron said he was “deeply concerned about the prospect of a military offensive in Rafah.

“The priority must be an immediate pause in the fighting to get aid in and hostages out, then progress towards a sustainable, permanent ceasefire.”

Meanwhile, Ms Bruins Slot described the situation in Rafah as “very worrying”.

“Many civilians in Gaza have fled south. Hard to see how large-scale military operations in such a densely populated area would not lead to many civilian casualties and a bigger humanitarian catastrophe. This is unjustifiable,” she added.

Also on Saturday, the Saudi foreign ministry issued a statement that warned against “targeting the city of Rafah in the Gaza Strip, which is the last resort for hundreds of thousands of civilians forced by the brutal Israeli aggression to flee”.

The ministry also repeated its “demand for an immediate ceasefire”.

In other developments over the weekend:

  • At least six Palestinians were killed in Israeli airstrikes on Rafah, according to Palestinian news agency Wafa
  • On Saturday, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said its air force killed two Hamas operatives in the southern city
  • The IDF also said it discovered a tunnel shaft near a school run by the relief agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) that was leading to an “underground terrorist tunnel beneath UNRWA’s main headquarters”
  • UNRWA head Philippe Lazzarini denied any knowledge of a Hamas tunnel near the agency’s office – a building which he said his staff vacated months ago
  • A six-year-old girl who went missing in Gaza City last month was found dead with several of her relatives and two paramedics – after appearing to come under fire from Israeli tanks
  • The IDF on Sunday said troops fighting in the southern city of Khan Younis had killed “approximately 100 terrorists”
  • Three patients have died as Israeli troops prevented oxygen from getting to al-Amal Hospital in Khan Younis, the Palestine Red Crescent Society has said

The BBC is unable to independently verify many battlefield claims made during the course of the war.

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Nato says Trump comments ‘undermine all of our security’

And so it begins. Nine months still to go before the next US presidential election and already the Republican party favourite and former President Donald Trump is sending eyebrows and blood pressure skywards in Nato capitals with his provocative statements.

And yet they will delight many of his supporters.

Suggesting at a rally in South Carolina that he would “encourage” aggressors (for example Russia) “to do whatever the hell they want” with Nato countries that fail to pay their dues has prompted an immediate condemnation from the White House. A spokesman called the comment “appalling and unhinged”, saying it was “encouraging invasions of our closest allies by murderous regimes”.

Nato Secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg has also responded forcefully, saying: “Any suggestion that allies will not defend each other undermines all of our security, including that of the US, and puts American and European soldiers at increased risk.”

Did Trump mean what he said? Probably not. This is typical Trump fare. Say something provocative, grab some headlines, outrage your critics and thrill your fans.

Yet ironically, there is a grudging gratitude in some quarters of Nato for Mr Trump’s threats when he was in the White House. Back in 2018, President Trump was so angered by the failure of several European nations to fulfil their agreed quota of spending 2% of GDP on defence that he threatened to pull the US out of the alliance altogether.

Military chiefs throughout Nato were aghast. If a US president ever went through with such a threat, abandoning Europe to fend for itself, it would so severely undermine the alliance that it would cease to exist in its present form.

But the shockwaves it sent, coupled with Russia’s 2022 full-scale invasion of Ukraine, have had the effect of prompting some, notably Germany, to promise to raise their defence spending accordingly.

For Trump supporters, and others too, his gripe about other nations not paying their way resonates strongly. According to statistics published by Nato themselves, US military spending in 2023 amounted to 3.49% of GDP. The UK spent 2.07%, but Germany, France, Italy and Spain all came in below the agreed 2% threshold.

Tellingly, the countries closest to Russia’s borders spent the most in percentage terms. There are voices in the US Republican party saying, “Why should we, America, carry the burden of defending Europe when it won’t pay for its own defence?”.

Mr Trump’s throwaway comments still constitute dangerous talk at a dangerous time, for Nato and for the Western world. Ukraine’s summer 2023 offensive has failed.

  • What is Nato and which countries are members?

Russian forces remain firmly in place in the areas they have occupied and are slowly pushing back the Ukrainians in the Donbas. Moscow has moved its economy on to a war footing, allocating about 40% of national income to defence, churning out low-quality weaponry in vast numbers in the hopes of overwhelming Ukraine’s defences.

Poland and the Baltic states are convinced that once President Putin has achieved his war aims in Ukraine, then Russia will rebuild its army and make a move on their countries, perhaps as soon as within three years from now.

Much faith has been placed in the long-standing deterrent value of something called Article 5. This is the part of Nato’s constitution that stipulates that an attack on any member state calls for the collective defence by all.

In other words, should Moscow decide to send tanks across its borders into, say, Estonia, then this would trigger a massive response by Nato, potentially triggering a Third World War. Under a Trump presidency, that certainty would not look nearly so certain.

And thereby lies the danger in Trump’s comments. If a future aggressor, be it Vladimir Putin in Europe or Xi Jinping in the South China Sea, begins to doubt Washington’s commitment to defend its allies, then it risks a massive miscalculation. You don’t have to look far for an example. Two years ago, President Putin’s intelligence people told him the West would sit on its hands if he invaded Ukraine.

They were wrong – and a catastrophic war has ensued.

Imran Khan-backed candidates finish first in Pakistan

The final results in Pakistan’s general election have put independent candidates backed by jailed ex-PM Imran Khan’s PTI party in the lead.

Independents won 101 of the National Assembly seats. BBC analysis shows 93 of them went to PTI-backed candidates.

That puts them ahead of ex-PM Nawaz Sharif’s PMLN who won 75 and it is unclear who will form a government.

As wrangling continues, independent candidates who did not win have flooded courts with vote-rigging allegations.

Both the PTI, which was blocked from taking part in the election, and Mr Sharif’s PMLN say they want to form the next government.

The result was a surprise as most observers had expected Mr Sharif’s party – widely seen as having the powerful military’s backing – to win, given Mr Khan had been jailed on charges ranging from corruption to having married illegally and his party was barred from the ballot sheet.

To govern, a candidate has to show they are at the head of a coalition with a simple majority of 169 seats in the National Assembly.

Nawaz Sharif’s PMLN has said that it has started formal discussions with Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s PPP about forming a government. In a statement released by the PMLN the party said: “The leaders agreed to cooperate politically to bring the country to political stability.”The two parties formed an alliance to oust Mr Khan, from power in 2022 and ruled until last August.

The Karachi-based MQM party has also made a surprising return in the polls, winning 17 seats, and could play a role in any coalition.

Of the National Assembly’s 366 seats, 266 are decided by direct voting and 70 are reserved – 60 for women and 10 for non-Muslims – and these are allocated according to the strength of each party in the assembly.

Under Pakistan’s rules, independent candidates are not eligible to be allocated reserved seats in parliament.

The PTI, among several other parties, has called for protests against the results, alleging they have been rigged.

On Sunday, police blocked streets near the electoral commission building in the city of Rawalpindi with barbed wire and large trucks, preventing any protestors from accessing it.

For about 90 minutes, a crowd of a few hundred protestors chanted on the street. Then the atmosphere turned. Police used several rounds of teargas to disperse the crowd, which then left the area.

The Punjab police told the BBC that there was a section 144 in place – a colonial-era law that stopped a gathering of more than four people.

This restriction had been put in place before the election until 12 February, but it detailed that civilians were not allowed to carry firearms, not that they were prevented from gathering.

Police in Islamabad said action would be taken against demonstrators.

The PTI’s chairman had called for peaceful protests outside electoral commission offices where they were concerned about “forged” results.

Pakistani media reported that the PTI party claimed that the results of at least 18 National Assembly seats were “falsely changed” by election officers.

On Saturday, Mr Sharif – who is thought to be favoured by the military – called for other parties to help him form a unity government.

  • Against the odds, election shows Imran Khan’s support is solid

As negotiations got under way between Mr Khan’s political rivals, experts have warned Pakistan could be facing a “prolonged period of political instability”.

Dr Farzana Shaikh from the Chatham House think tank told the BBC that the Khan-linked independents were unlikely to be allowed to form a government and many people feared a “weak and unstable coalition” would result from any tie-up between Mr Sharif and the PPP.

Meanwhile, at least six PTI-backed candidates who did not win their seats have lodged legal challenges in the courts to try to get the outcome overturned.

Among them is Yasmin Rashid, who stood against Mr Sharif in Lahore. The petitioners allege collusion in the alteration of election results on specific forms.

Pakistani officials have denied any irregularities. The PMLN has also reportedly formed a legal team to address rigging allegations.

Super Bowl 58 – everything you need to know

Super Bowl 58: San Francisco 49ers v Kansas City Chiefs

Venue: Allegiant Stadium, Las Vegas Date: Sunday, 11 February Start: 23:30 GMT (15:30 PST)

BBC coverage: Listen to commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live and follow live text on the BBC Sport website and app

The Super Bowl is a sporting and cultural phenomenon, as much about the spectacle as the game itself.

Now the show is set to be bigger and better than ever as – for the very first time – the NFL’s championship game is taking place under the bright lights of Las Vegas.

Sin City has been transformed into a sports city over the past decade and now the biggest annual event in American sport will be staged on the Strip.

Defending champions Kansas City will play in their fourth Super Bowl in five years and ‘Chiefs Kingdom’ has gained a legion of new fans this season as music superstar Taylor Swift has been a regular at games since she began dating tight end Travis Kelce.

They face one of the NFL’s most popular teams in the San Francisco 49ers, who have won five Super Bowls but lost on their last trip to the big game – to the Chiefs in 2020.

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  • How Taylor Swift has led to even more headlines for the Kelces

  • ‘Mr Irrelevant’ leads 49ers cast aiming to steal show in Vegas

There is normally lots of speculation about the half-time show but it seems casual fans are more interested in whether Swift will be there than who might join Usher on stage.

Either way, dozens of music and screen stars will be at Allegiant Stadium for all the glitz and glamour of a Vegas Super Bowl.

The game starts at 23:30 GMT on Sunday and you’ll be able to follow live text commentary on the BBC Sport website and app, plus live commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live, followed by post-match video highlights.

  • How Las Vegas fell in love with big sport

  • Mahomes v Brady – Can Chiefs quarterback be the new GOAT?

  • In pictures – build-up to Super Bowl 58 in Las Vegas

Can Chiefs cement dynasty and Mahomes chase down Brady?

Kansas City have not been at their scintillating best this season yet Andy Reid’s team still have a chance to become just the fourth team in NFL history to win three Super Bowls in five years.

After winning last year’s classic in Phoenix, Arizona, Patrick Mahomes became the 13th quarterback to win multiple Super Bowls. Victory in Vegas would see him become just the fifth quarterback to win three – and Reid the fifth coach to win three.

Tom Brady holds the all-time record of seven Super Bowl wins and retired last year as the NFL’s GOAT, but are we already watching the man who will take that title off him?

Mahomes has some way to go, of course but, at just 28, another NFL title on Sunday would keep him firmly on track to surpass Brady’s many records.

It would also see the Chiefs cement their dynasty by becoming the NFL’s first back-to-back champions since Brady’s New England Patriots in the 2003 and 2004 seasons.

  • Sportshour podcast: Super Bowl Sunday

It’s a family affair for the 49ers

San Francisco have not won the Super Bowl since the days of Joe Montana, Jerry Rice and Steve Young, who helped the 49ers win five from 1982 to 1995.

They have since lost two – in 2013 and 2020 – and after building a star-studded roster in his seven years in charge, coach Kyle Shanahan hopes for his first Super Bowl win.

The mid-season addition of Christian McCaffrey in 2022 took the 49ers to another level and the star running back aims to emulate his father Ed. The former wide receiver helped the 49ers win Super Bowl 29 before winning two more with Denver under Kyle’s father Mike Shanahan.

The families were close, and it was rumoured a teenage Kyle used to babysit Christian, although it turns out his sister was actually in charge., external

While the Chiefs have potentially the future GOAT, the 49ers are led by Brock Purdy, who was the 262nd and final pick of the 2022 draft – which comes with the title of ‘Mr Irrelevant’.

Yet Purdy became San Francisco’s starting quarterback in December 2022 and the 24-year-old has continued to prove his doubters wrong, reaching the Super Bowl in his first full season.

  • Get American Football alerts in the BBC Sport app

Will Taylor Swift be at the Super Bowl?

Some called last year’s big game the Kelce Bowl as it was the first Super Bowl to feature brothers on opposing teams.

Jason and Travis Kelce expected a media circus during Super Bowl week, but it was nothing compared to what Travis has experienced since his relationship with Taylor Swift became public when she attended her first Chiefs game on 24 September.

The NFL and broadcasters have embraced the extra attention Swift’s presence has brought to the league, although perhaps it has gone to Jason’s head.

With his Philadelphia Eagles having been knocked out of the play-offs, Jason met his younger brother’s new girlfriend for the first time at Kansas City’s game in a freezing Buffalo and celebrated a Travis touchdown by taking his shirt off, jumping into the crowd and chugging a beer with the Bills fans.

Now fans are wondering if they will both be at Super Bowl 58, in particular Swift as she is playing a concert in Tokyo the night before. Even the Japanese Embassy has got involved,, external saying that given Tokyo is 17 hours behind Vegas and it’s a 12-hour flight, “she should comfortably” arrive in time.

As for whether Jason manages to keep his shirt on, that’s anyone’s guess.

Half-time show the ‘honour of a lifetime’

Usher appeared as a special guest of the Black Eyed Peas during the 2011 half-time show but now the American R&B star is the headline act.

The 45-year-old completed a 100-show residency in Vegas in December and has been such a hit on the Strip that he was awarded the key to the city in October.

He said being the Super Bowl headliner is the “honour of a lifetime” and promised “a show unlike anything else they’ve seen from me before”.

While the only surprise for last year’s half-time show was Rihanna’s pregnancy reveal, Usher has collaborated with many artists who could make a guest appearance. Who knows, perhaps he’ll ask Swift to join him.

  • Listen – Usher: Artist Icons Collection

This year’s Super Bowl stats

  • Las Vegas is the 16th city to host the Super Bowl

  • Completed in 2020, the Allegiant Stadium cost $1.9bn and has a capacity of 65,000

  • The cheapest resale ticket costs about $5,200

  • The US TV audience is expected to be more than 100m (one in three US adults)

  • TV commercials will cost about $7m for a 30-second slot, with more than 50 advertisers featured

  • Advertising on the Sphere has sold out for Super Bowl week, with only two brands appearing on Super Bowl Sunday, for which they have each paid more than $1.5m

  • The National Chicken Council predicts that 1.45bn chicken wings will be eaten during the game

  • The American Gaming Association says a record 67.8m American adults (26%) are expected to bet on the game, with an estimated $23.1bn being wagered

  • Super Bowl 58 is expected to generate more than $600m for the Las Vegas economy, with 330,000 visitors expected

Related Internet Links

  • NFL
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  • US college football
  • British American Football
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The lost art of the death mask

The Western world was once obsessed with these macabre memorials.

*This article contains details and images that some readers might find distressing.

On 7 May 1821, two doctors were engrossed in a frantic search. There was a decomposing body at stake – and if they didn’t find some plaster soon, its features would be lost forever.

Mere hours earlier, the French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte had succumbed to a brief illness, after six years in exile. Those in attendance were keen to create a death mask, an impression of the face usually taken soon after the person has died. But there were two small glitches to the plan.

Firstly, the hunt was unfolding on the tropical island of Saint Helena, a barren speck in the South Atlantic, 807 miles (1,299km) from any other land. There were no shops on this “miserable and dreary rock“, as Napoleon described it, that could supply highly specialist products such as plaster. Secondly, neither of the doctors present had ever made a death mask before.

The history of death masks stretches back millennia, deep into antiquity. Most of them were not exact replicas taken from moulds, but artworks created for elite members of society – protective armour that could help the deceased to navigate the afterlife or ward off evil spirits.

By the late Middle Ages, Europe had become obsessed with death, after the plague wiped out up to 50% of the population in just four traumatic years. It was at this moment that true death masks superseded the sculpted, artistic kind. These likenesses, created by moulding wax or plaster over the face, were a useful way of fossilising the features of deceased relatives, so that sculptors could use them as a reference for the lifelike portraits displayed at funerals. Then in the 18th Century, something unexpected happened: people began to value death masks for their own sake.

For the next 200 years, doctors across Europe set about assiduously preserving these glimpses of the moments after death for posterity. The faces of icons, criminals and even babies were immortalised in grisly detail – a practise that coincided with a surge of interest in the pseudoscience phrenology, in which a person’s personality traits were inferred from the features of their skull. Many death masks were turned into spooky heirlooms, while some became souvenirs that command six-figure sums to this day. One was revered as an object of beauty comparable to the Mona Lisa, inspiring countless artworks and wild theories.

This is a short history of the death mask, and what it can reveal about how our attitudes to death have changed over the centuries. 

Early copies of Napoleon Bonaparte’s death mask are now extremely valuable (Credit: Alamy)

A collector’s item

Back on the island of Saint Helena, the two doctors still needed to make Napoleon’s death mask – and still couldn’t find any plaster. But they had a couple of backup ideas.

One of them – Napoleon’s personal physician François Antommarchi – darted off to the local village, Jamestown, and purchased some 150 figurines made from plaster. These were then ground down to a powder and used to make an improvised plaster mash. Alas, when this messy mixture was applied to the dead man’s face, it didn’t work.

The other doctor – Irish surgeon Francis Burton – focused his efforts on tracking down the raw ingredient in plaster: gypsum, a soft mineral found in layers of sedimentary rock. To turn one into the other, gypsum is ground into a powder, and heated to evaporate off its water content. This breaks down the crystals within the rock. The next step is mixing this dehydrated gypsum with water again to form a paste. As it dries, its crystal structure reforms and the plaster is left set in its moulded state.

Eventually a local source of this prized ingredient was identified, and one and a half days after Napoleon took his final, shallow breaths, the cast was accomplished. By this point, Napoleon had been deceased for longer than was usual when making death masks, so his face is immortalised in its deathly state – with sunken eyes and hollowed cheeks. Decomposition had begun to kick in already, and the facial muscles were less tense, giving the usually-melancholy man a relaxed look.

However, if the former French emperor had dreamed that his likeness would have ended up at the bedside of his wife, Marie Louise, or in a place of national honour, he might have been surprised at what happened next. Antommarchi eventually stole the blueprint for his colleague’s successful death mask, and created hundreds of copies which could be purchased as collectible souvenirs, for as little as 20 francs. Though the original death mask has long since vanished, its progeny are scattered at museums and in private collections across the globe to this day.

Isaac Newton’s death mask was created as a guide for future sculptures (Credit: Getty Images)

The Age of Enlightenment

When Isaac Newton died in his sleep at the age of 84, in 1727, he left behind an intimidating legacy. Among other things, this included a corpus of letters and manuscripts comprising some 10 million words of writing, numerous world-changing discoveries, including the laws of gravity, endless notes on failed alchemical experiments – and a bizarre assortment of anagrams of his own name. Soon afterwards, a death mask was added to this list.

Claudia Victoria lived in the Roman city of of Lugdunum, in present-day Lyon (Credit: Alamy)

Ancient Rome

In the Roman era, elite citizens often honoured the death of a family member by creating idealised funerary masks. These “imagines” weren’t usually buried with the deceased, but kept as memorials and stored in special niches in the family home – and even sometimes worn to other funerals by living family members. This tradition was traditionally reserved for older men and allowed for them to be initiated into a family’s canon of ancestors.

But around the 2nd Century AD, there was a twist: imagines became popular among the lower classes, too. These versions were true death masks, made as casts, and in this non-elite world, they weren’t just reserved for men. According to research by Kelsey Madden, a research student in archaeology at the University of Sheffield, UK, this hints that, for the lower classes, women and children were also allowed to become “ancestors”.

One famous imagine thought to be in this category is that of Claudia Victoria, a 10-year-old girl who lived in the Roman city of Lugdunum in Gaul, which is now buried under Lyon, France. Her round, youthful face was captured in plaster, and buried alongside her in her tomb. The inscription read: “To the departed spirit of Claudia Victoria who lived ten years, one month and eleven days. Her mother Claudia Severina made this monument for her sweet daughter and for herself in her lifetime.”

No one knows how the girl known as L’Inconnue de la Seine ended up in the river (Credit: Alamy)

The Industrial Revolution

In the late 1880s, the body of a young woman – thought to have drowned – was found floating in the Seine river in Paris. The corpse was taken to the local morgue, which was a popular attraction at the time, and put on display in case anyone could identify the person it belonged to. Instead, in an uncomfortable development to a story that has since been acknowledged as deeply creepy, the pathologist on duty became so taken with the young woman’s beauty and innocence that he had a death mask made before she was buried.

The cast from L’Inconnue de la Seine, “the unknown woman of the Seine”, in which the woman seems to be smiling contentedly with her lips pursed, was subsequently turned into a popular artwork. The work inspired sculptors, writers and painters, and was displayed on the walls of the houses of ordinary people, until, one day – over half a century after its unknown subject died – a Norwegian toy manufacturer decided to use the face for a lifelike resuscitation doll he was working on. “Resusci Annie”, sometimes known as “rescue Annie”, was born, and it’s been estimated that the CPR courses she has helped with have saved some 2.5 million people from cardiac arrest.

Tracey Emin’s artworks are often autobiographical and confessional (Credit: Alamy)

The modern era

With changing attitudes to death and the growing popularity of photography in the 19th and early 20th Centuries, the practice of making death masks gradually fell out of fashion. People just didn’t need them anymore when they could look at a photo of their lost loved ones instead.  

Today the practise of making death masks has largely disappeared. But some artists are still keeping it alive through their own modern interpretations.

One example is the “death mask” series created by Tracey Emin. The English artist is famous for creating honest, sometimes shocking works that tell her own story, and the four impressions – which she took of her own face – have been described as ironic and autobiographical. They also challenge the historical expectation that death masks were created for men.

Another modern take is a work by the sculptor Robert Gober, who preserved the memory of his beloved dog, Paco, by moulding its snout and then blending this with a cast of his own face. The cartoonish result was Gober’s way of preserving this ancient tradition – and who knows, it might just catch on.

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