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Well-known African mask

Cameroon Grasslands

Cameroon Grasslands

Bamoun mask
Grassfields region, Cameroon
13 inches, wood
The Grassfields Cameroon, West Africa are one of the richer parts of Africa for masks and other forms of art. This dates back to the powerful kingdoms that dominated Cameroon two centuries ago. This mask is very typical of the Bamoun (Bamun) people for village ceremonies and secret society ritual. Today, mask making has grown to become a major income producer for the area. Here is an example that is well carved and in excellent condition.   Bob, 715

I just saw a much more expensive mask than this one, which is described in the “Mask for sale” section of our website. Then I searched more on the internet for this type of mask and found a wide range of prices. Why so much variation? Well, there is no short answer for that. What you want is a Bamoun (or Bamun, Mbum, Bafum, Bekom… sorry about that spelling) that looks good to you. It should remind you of something that could have been used by that ethnic group. Don’t worry about who owned it or what auction house sold it. That’s for the millionaires.

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Good old or bad old?

Balinese mask

Balinese mask

Q:  I’m trying to find out where from and how old this mask is that my wife inherited. The mask’s parameters are as follows:
height              10″
width                 8″
leather beard    14″     Thanks, Pierre, 714

A:  This is a character from the classic dance dramas of Bali. It probably isn’t very old. I say that because if a mask is used for a long time it slowly develops wear and a patina on its surface. This mask is faded, the paint is chipping off and three of the four fangs are broken off. It does not look like a true antique. (more…)


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Tourist masks can look good

West African souvenir

West African souvenir

Q:  I found this mask in an antique store in South Carolina.  Was curious what it represents. Thanks!  Rosalind, 713

A:  This is a decorative piece of art in the style of a Baule mask from Ivory Coast, West Africa. The real ones are called Ndomas by the Baule, and they are said to portray an honored person of the village who is celebrated during a ceremonial dance known as Mblo. (more…)


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Royal elephant mask

Bali people, Cameroon

Bali people, Cameroon

Q:  I live in Sydney, Australia, and I want to know if  you can please tell me about the origin, value and history of this wooden elephant mask. It has French Cameroon coins and shells imbedded on it. Please check attached photos.  Charbel, 712

A:  Large masks like this were made for the Bali ruling class of western Cameroon. (more…)


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Could be controversial

Japanese?

Japanese?

Q:  Here is what I assume is an antique, turn-of-the-century, racist, decorative mask from Japan. Just like Black Americana pokes fun at ethnic features, so does this mask. Beyond what might be the typical big lips, the creator went further to highlight nose-hairs, and crooked eyes to boot. The nose appears wider and more broad than an Asian feature, and in that way, also seems to strongly suggest Black heritage. Uniquely signed on the reverse in two colors… I’ve yet to find a translator. Its made of a hardwood, and appears to have aged patina within its shellac coating. Its a bit smaller than a typical mask… and fits my 4 year old son perfectly. The Japanese love to highly nature wood grain, the fact that this mask as a dark, almost black, seems to further attest to its original intent. I am an advocate to protect and preserve, items like these as a reminder not to repeat history. If not turn-of-the-century, there is a highly likelihood that this mask is from a war time era, ca1930s, where there was a heighten fear of foreigners.  Nate, 711

A:  This mask could go viral! It reminds me of the Elvis Presley mask made by a Chewa carver in Malawi, Central Africa, which you can see at the Brooklyn Museum in New York. (more…)


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Strange art mask

aaaMystrySolvd-710Q:  I acquired this mask decades ago. I was told at that time that it’s South American, but they knew nothing more than that. It is carved of wood, covered with pebbles (?), then painted. It has a dark brown or black undercoat which shows slightly where it’s worn. I look forward to the benefit of your opinion.  Martin, 710

A:  I like to refer to these as “art masks.” (more…)


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South Pacific Surprise

PNG mask

PNG mask

Q:  I found this in an antique store. They say its from Africa but it looks closer to New Guinea to me. I can’t find anything online. Could you help me out. It is approximately 9″ wide X 10″ high to edge of weaving. l collect almost any masks that are fairly old and not tourists models.
I also carve NW Native Masks.  Scott, 709

A:  You are absolutely right about New Guinea, but I’m not sure whether it is authentic or a strictly for tourists item. (more…)


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Sri Lanka has rich traditions of masquerade

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka

Q:  I have recently owned some masks on an antique fair. I am not an expert so I am very curious if they are original, hand made, etc. Could you please tell me what their origin is? I am sending photos of one of the masks. I would be grateful for your help.

A:  This mask is from Sri Lanka, a small island nation with a rich tradition of masquerade. (more…)


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Old half-mask from Bali

Topeng half-mask

Topeng half-mask

Q:  I recently purchased this mask at a non-internet estate auction as part of an auction lot. Size is 6 1/4″ h x 5 1/2″ w. Light elegant wood with a true antique feel (wavy patina). The red paint might be storage splatters. I collect well-crafted, antique ethnographic items.  Jerry, 707

A:  Your excellent hi-res photos suggest this is a very old Balinese mask used for the Topeng dance drama that has been performed there for hundreds of years. (more…)


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Japan’s most popular mask

Hannya

Hannya

Q:  I have a Hannya mask that was given to me by my mother years ago.  I am not sure as to its authenticity or age.  It looks like one of the nicer masks I have seen and I believe it is made of wood.  I am guessing it is a reproduction but really have no idea.  Any information would be appreciated.  Thanks.  Tom, 706

A:  The mask of Noh theater character “Hannya” is collected and reproduced a great deal, probably more than any other. (more…)


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