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Primitive shaman’s mask from the Himalayas

Himachal PradeshQ: I bought this mask from an old Tibetan refugee merchant in Dharamsala last month. He didn’t speak much English, but claimed that this mask was from Tibet and that it is more than hundred years old. I took this information with a grain of salt. To me, it does not look particularly Tibetan and what comes to it’s age, it seems quite impossible to tell, but looks a bit newer. It is very crudely crafted and quite unlike any of the other masks I saw around. Quite heavy and of hard wood. I  liked it’s strangeness and bought it for a reasonable asking price.  Aki, 575A: I don’t think it’s from Tibet either. Masks like this are made in the Outer Himalayas all the way to east Nepal, but not in Tibet. After searching I found several from Himachal Pradesh with those same slanted eyes. So your mask may not have traveled far at all. I would call it a rural shaman’s mask from Himachal Pradesh, India. Saying that it is old or used would be difficult.  B+

 

Categories:   India & Himalayas

Comments

  • Posted: November 2, 2013 21:14

    Gloria McConnaghy

    I accidently unsubscribed myself from your site. . .I did not know it was you, Bob Ibold very good site. . . masks are so fascinating aren't they ? keep it up. . . Gloria
    • Posted: November 4, 2013 00:48

      Bob Ibold

      Hi Gloria, I hope we can get you back on the list. You were the first person to turn me on to Himalayan masks. Will you be in your shop Thanksgiving week? I'll be in Cincy and could look you up. Bob
  • Posted: January 14, 2014 14:16

    ethnoflorence

    About the 'real' HP masks http://ethnoflorence.skynetblogs.be/archive/2013/04/28/note-sur-les-masques-de-phagli-de-la-vallee-de-banjar-himach.html
  • Posted: January 30, 2016 14:22

    Alain Rouveure

    I just came across this wonderful site about masks. How l missed it all those years...? OK. Your mask is very decorative but the lovely man who sold it to you either did not know anything about it and repeated what he was told or, knew what you wanted to hear in order to sell it. Whatever the case, this mask is typical of new work made for the tourist market in the Himalayas, many made in Nepal. I have been traveling and working in Nepal on and off since 1979 and seen thousands of masks, some good and genuine and most just decorative, unfortunately sold as old to tourists. That's the world over so no need to feel depressed about this. It creates work for crafstmen and enable shopkeepers to stay open. People end up with something that reminds them of a wonderful trip in a country they loved. Great. Not so good if you have been deceived and worse if you paid good money for something that was sold as "rare antique". The face reminds me of some genuinely old masks from North-western Himalayas, Umla region in particular. I have several in my collections, but they were masks to commemorate elders in the community who have passed away (like having a photograph of Grandpa) and of guardian spirits protecting the house and masks worn during yearly festivals in that area (Spring, Harvest etc...). To check if the mask was a dancers mask you need to see holes for strings to be attached when worn. At least 3 - 2 either side and 1 on top. Cannot judge from the photograph. Although it sound good and exotic, there are no masks that were worn by Shamen, none! So you can discard the information that you got about its provenance. The mask is very decorative nevertheless. I hope this helps. Best wishes.