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Revealing the Trauma of War

therapy mask

therapy mask

“Brain injuries caused by blast events change soldiers in ways many can’t articulate. Some use art therapy, creating painted masks to express how they feel. Brain trauma from blast force is the signature injury of the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns, afflicting hundreds of thousands of U.S. combat personnel. Although unseen, the damage strikes deeply into a soldier’s mind and psyche.”

This is how a recent article in National Geographic begins. It has lots of pictures of masks made by the recovering soldiers. You can see the whole article by going to http://www.nationalgeographic.com/healing-soldiers/


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Kota Reliquary Figure

Los Angeles

Los Angeles

This is a Janus reliquary guardian figure from the Gabonese Republic of West Africa. It would have been used by the Kota people in the mid-19th century. It is actually a piece of sculpture, but people who collect African masks always love them. It is made of wood, copper, brass, iron, cowrie shell and measures 23 × 12 × 5 in. This is a promised gift to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is from Terry and Lionel Bell in honor of the museum’s 50th anniversary. (more…)


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Decorative or authentic

Wanted for ID loss

Wanted for ID loss

Q:  Here again I submit a mask that I have not been able to identify. Made of light weight, balsa like, wood. It measures 7.7″ in height x 7″ in width and 3″ in depth. I’ll be grateful for any input on the origin of this mask.  Louis, 823

A:  The Mask Man is stumped again. I just can’t remember where I might have seen something like this before. The front is fresh and may have been repainted. The rear could be showing real usage. (more…)


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Thai decorative mask

SE Asia

SE Asia

Q:  Can you tell me something about this mask? Its 25 cm high and light. And made of wood.  Brian, 822

A:  Here is another example of a mask that would never be used in the culture. (more…)


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Mexican decorative

decorative art

decorative art

Q:  I only have the front view now.  The mask is in my air conditioned storage unit.  If you are interested, I can certainly take the side and rear.  I am interested in your opinion.  Additionally, what do you charge for appraisal?  The mask is hand-carved wood.  Carolyn, 821

A:  Personally, I enjoy masks like this. It can be described as a Mexican decorative probably made in the state of Guerrero. (more…)


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Steampunk mask by Tom Banwell

fashion or art

fashion or art

The Mystery Mask blog’s history is mostly about traditional masks from various ethnic groups around the world. This one is much different. Steampunk is a modern movement that gets some of its inspiration from the writings of Jules Verne and H. G. Wells. It celebrates a sci-fi fantasy of a steam-powered age.

There are many other kinds of masks for Halloween, parties, celebrations, parades, decorating or just collecting. There are also masks that cover the face for other reasons. Some protect us from possible injury or sickness and others hide the wearer from recognition. These can be quite old or come from unusual places, others are just part of modern-day life. All of these categories are collectible… and don’t hesitate to send one in to the Mask Man.  Bob, 820


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Yet another Mystery Mask

Looks old and primitive

Looks old and primitive

Q:  I picked this mask up at an estate sale, but they could not tell me anything about it. It’s 13″ tall, 8.5″ at it’s widest and about 4.5″ thick. Can you help me figure out where it might be from?  Rick, 819

A:  This is another Mystery Mask the Mask Man can’t identify. Bulging eyes and big teeth rendered in a rough and primitive style. Most likely it comes from an area where the tourists are intrigued by “old tribal masks.” (more…)


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Another mystery mask from West Africa

more info needed

more info needed

Q:  I have this mask I recently purchased.  All I know is the original owner got it in South Africa in the 1980s. It is about 9 inches tall. Any help would be great.  David, 818

A:  Sorry, but I can’t help you much other than to say it has the characteristics of several cultures from different parts of West Africa. Though helmet style in construction, it is too small to have been made for actual use. Probably it was intended for sale as a souvenir. (more…)


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A version of the Senufo Kpelie mask

West Africa

West Africa

Q:  This mask belongs to a doctor friend who is suffering from dementia. He worked in Cameroon in the 1970s so the mask may come from that area. Unfortunately he can no longer tell me where he got it. Can you help?  Dr. G., 817

A:  Called a Kpelie, these easy to recognize masks are a creation of the Senufo people who inhabit northern Ivory Coast. (more…)


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Another old mask from Bali

1 of 2 old masks

1 of 2 old masks

I have an antique Javanese mask that I purchased from Japan of all places. Its got exactly this same red pigment paint, and that has flaked in a few places to reveal a lighter pigment of the same color below. See the link to it below. The one I am referencing is the “urban” version. Everything about mine, the age/insect activity,dryness of the wood, patina, cracking in the paint, style etc, all points to this being ca 1900-1930 in my opinion. I suspect the latest in your blog fits squarely into that same time period. Hope all is well. Book looks like it has come along!  Nate, 816


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