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West African mask from somewhere

Not the Congo

Not the Congo

Q:  I recently purchased this wooden mast at auction because I found it quite striking. The mask is 24″ tall and was described as an old Songye Congo carved wooden Kifwebe mask with an unusual animal crest.  I would greatly appreciate your opinion of the mask and it’s description.  Jason, 798

A:  It is not a Songye Kifwebe mask. Nor does it resemble the work done by any of the various tribes occupying the Congo basin. The best I can tell you is that it probably was made somewhere in West Africa. It looks old and used, but almost all of the African masks we see on the market have been artificially aged to make them more appealing to the tourist market. (more…)


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African mask with moving mouth

Ogoni people, Nigeria

Ogoni people, Nigeria

Q:  I bought this mask on a car boot sale simply because I liked it and found it very interesting. I have tried to find out a bit about it with not much luck. Could this be an African maiden mask?  I would appreciate any information you can give me. Jude, 796

A:  This is an Elu mask with hinged jaw from the Ogoni people of southern Nigeria, Africa’s most populated country. (more…)


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Female Kifwebe mask from the Songye

Congo area

Congo area

Q:  I found this with a collection of 30 or so other masks at a yard sale. The seller said they were “very old” and had come from Sudan. Some of the other masks have a distinct smoke odor (but not this mask). Measures approximately 16.5″ x 13″ x 7″   Rebecca, 790

A:  The grooved pattern on the face of the mask is a common characteristic of a female Kifwebe mask from the Songye tribe of the Democratic Republic of Congo. (more…)


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Maiden Spirit mask from the Igbo

Southern Nigeria

Southern Nigeria

Q:  I collect masks from countries I visit and have a small collection of 9 at the moment (and hopefully growing).
However, my Nan volunteers at a British Heart Foundation shop and had a wooden mask bought in and has got it for me. I usually like to know where the masks are from. Would there be any way for me to find out where this one is from?  Sophie, 789

A:  That’s what we’re here for. Learning about the mask increases the pleasure of collecting. (more…)


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Lipiko mask from the Makonde

Tanzania, Africa

Tanzania, Africa

The famous Lipiko mask from the Makonde people projects a kind of stylized realism that is unique in African masks. This is a plain one without scarification or applied hair, but with an especially strong and well executed form. From a purely sculptural standpoint, it doesn’t get much better than this. The mask, which slips completely over the dancers head and rests on the shoulders, is about 12 inches deep. aaaMystrySolvd-788-s (more…)


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Mbuya mask from the DRC

Pende people

Pende people

Q:  I just acquired this mask at an estate sale. It is made of very lightweight wood and appears to be quite old. There is also a kind of fabric made from woven grass attached to the top and lower parts of the mask. The mask measures 11″ x 11″ (including fabric)
or 7″ x 7″ (wooden part only) with a 5.5″ depth. Any information you can provide would be much appreciated.  Simon, 786

A:  The Pende are an important culture that has produced a wide range of masks and other sculptures. (more…)


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Souvenirs vs. Traditional Art

Senufo mask

Senufo mask

Q:  Another mask I found recently. I don’t know anything about it other than it is sand cast metal, I believe.  Dee, 784

A:  You can see a similar African mask that I posted Feb 8. Your mask is also called a Kpelie and comes from the Senufo people of Ivory Coast. These refined face masks represent women, are danced by men, and are usually associated with the Poro association. Called Beautiful Lady or Kpelie, they come with many variations, with rich and complex symbolism. At that time I went on to say, “Yours is especially nice. It’s designed very well and is carefully carved.” (more…)


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Warlike Guere/We mask

Ivory Coast, West Africa

Ivory Coast, West Africa

Q:  Here’s a wooden mask that my father acquired in Ivory Coast somewhere around 1975. It’s probably from the Guiglo region, in the southwest of the country. He bought it from someone there, and I’m very curious about its originality and possibly if you know anything more about its function or meaning. As a frequent visitor of your website and mask enthusiast/collector I was hoping you might be able to tell me something more about it!   Sven, 781

A: The Guere people (also called the We) are the dominant ethnic group in that area. (more…)


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Marka style Kore mask

aaaMystrySolvd-772Q:  I got this mask at a flea market about a year and a half ago and am very curious about it.  It is wood with hammered metal overlaying it, with real animal hair. I tried searching through your site to see if there was anything like it.  Anything you could tell me about it would be awesome. Tamara, 772

A:  It’s a Kore mask from the Marka people of Mali, West Africa. (more…)


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Kuba Bwoom helmet mask

DRC, Central Africa

DRC, Central Africa

Q:  I have a mask that is displayed in my office.  I am attempting to figure out if it has any value, and if so, who to target to sell the item.  I have a sneaking suspicion that is a basic tourist mask, but I would like to be sure.  The mask was purchased by the previous business owner who left it with the building.  Unfortunately, I know nothing about it’s origin or even where it was purchased.  Danielle, 770

A:  The mask in your office is called a Bwoom and is from the Kuba people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in central Africa. (more…)


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