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To collect or not to collect

West Africa

West Africa

Q:  This mask from Africa is at least  50 years old.  I do not know more about it … bought it 20 years ago in a garage sale. I’m not a collector of masks. Thanks.  Louise, 728

A:  Thanks for the excellent photos. The mask is from somewhere in West African. It was designed with a combination of references to various cultural traditions… then made to look used and old. (more…)


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Happy New Year

4 kids from Ghana

4 kids from Ghana

This charming photo by Phyllis Galembo is called Four Children in Fancy Dress. It shows a Nobles Masquerade Group from Winneba, Ghana, taken in 2009. It comes from Maske, a book by the photographer that shows all sorts of African masks and costumes. You should treat yourself to this beautiful book. It is in print and not expensive.

Best wishes to all,  Bob, 721


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Mwano Pwo mask

DRC or Angola

DRC or Angola

Both Lwena and the nearby Chokwe people of southern Democratic Republic of Congo use this type of mask. It represents the ideal female beauty, Mwano Pwo, and is danced with male counterparts, Chihongo, during initiation ceremonies and other important occasions to bring fertility and prosperity to the village. Most share the depiction of facial scarification patterns, filed teeth, fanciful and inventive hair styles. Despite the mask’s appearance and excellent quality of carving, it was probably made to be sold. This is good news because it means you can afford something just like it for your collection.

(more…)


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The price of African masks

Dan, Ivory Coast

Dan, Ivory Coast

Q:  Bought this at garage sale..it looks and feels old and authentic. Made of wood and fabric and shells.  Robbie, 717

A:  One African art dealer calls this is a Dan Deangle mask from Ivory Coast in West Africa and goes on to say that (more…)


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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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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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Much larger Congo mask

DRC

DRC

Q:  Just wondering if you could kindly identify this mask for me. I came across it whilst in Africa. It came off a truck that was doing a trans-Africa tour approx 30 years ago. I believe it came from West Africa. It is wooden with a rafia beard and the size including beard is 137cm (wooden mask height only is 68cm), the width is 39cm, so it is quite big.  Paul, 704

A:  When it rains it pours Congo masks. This one is indeed big. Masks this large are made by African tribes occasionally. (more…)


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More from the Congo

Congo style

Congo style

Q:  I’d love your thoughts on this mask I recently bought at auction; it’s around 30cm in height and made from a fairly light weight wood. Could it be from Congo I wonder? Many thanks in advance.  Nicky, 703

A:  Yes, it could be from the Congo, and possibly from the same area as the Lwalu mask that just came in a few hours ago. So what I said previously applies to your mask as well. (more…)


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Interesting mask from the Congo

Lwalu

Lwalu

Q:  This mask was left in our home when we purchased it.  We are not collectors but are very intrigued, and who knows, this may start our hobby.  Can you tell us something about it? Thank you!!!  Machelle, 702

A: I think you are lucky. This is a good example of a used* mask from the Lwalu people from the West Kasai region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Here masks are used for various rites, plus brief performances to bring good luck before the hunt. (more…)


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