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Mask from the Congo

with injured lip

with injured lip

Q:  I found this mask yesterday at a thrift store here in Maryland. I think it’s African and possibly from the Chokwe people. Would you be so kind as to take a look at the attached photos and let me know. It’s 7″ L (9″ including the hanging material) and 4 1/2″ W at the widest section. The nails are rusted, and the cloth around the top and side is worn. But, of course, that may not mean very much regarding age and a “tourist” sale. If you’re unable to help, would you let me know as soon as possible so I can seek another source? Incidentally, it looks like someone tried to repair a break in the lip area. Perhaps that’s why the mask ended up in the thrift store.  Carole, 767

A:  It might be Chokwe, but I think it could also be from another tribe in central Africa– formerly Zaire and now called the Democratic Republic of the Congo. (more…)


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Decorative Guro mask

Ivory Coast

Ivory Coast

Q:  I purchased this mask I believe in 1998 from a gallery (now closed) in Beverly Hills, CA called “Mozambique by Design.” At the time a certificate of authenticity and some history was provided in paperwork, but it has since been misplaced. I believe this is an ivory coast mask made of wood.  Do you have any further details on it? The mask wasn’t cheap when I bought it!  William, 765

A: This is a decorative Guro mask from Ivory Coast, far away from Mozambique. For a number of years skilled Guro carvers have been making beautiful and very creative pieces like this for the collector market.  (more…)


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Art of the Fang people

Ivory Coast, West Africa

Ivory Coast, West Africa

Q:  I bought this mask at Marrakesh, in a shop full of articles of South-Saharian Africa: Benin bronzes, Dogon windows, Igbo, Fang or Punu masks… even some python or leopard skins. I bought this one at the same time I bought a fang mask but I don’t know who made this one.  Josema, 764

A:  It seems to be a Fang also, but simply and quickly made. The design is great… and I think most collectors would enjoy seeing it on their wall. It looks so West African.  (more…)


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Toma Poro Society mask

West Africa

West Africa

Q:  Bought with a lot of PNG material, but seems not to fit with them. 14 inches long. I’m mostly interested in masks from Oceania and Europe.  Kim, 759

A:  At first I did not recognize this mask, but I now realize it is a very simple version of the well-known masks used for boys participating in initiation rituals of the Poro Society throughout the Toma ethnic group located in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. (more…)


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Rough Guro antelope mask

Ivory Coast

Ivory Coast

Q:  What do you think of this hand carved work of African primitive art? Its modeled to depict a horned face with cut out openings at the eyes and has a warm patina. It is hardwood,18 inches tall, slightly cracked and chipped.   756

A:  I think it is African, perhaps an antelope mask from the Guro people of Ivory Coast. (more…)


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Have you seen this?

African metal headdress

African metal headdress

Q:  Does anyone know anything about this mask? It’s brass or bronze with an old patina and appears to have been worn over some kind of cloth headdress. Its believed to have come from the Mossi people of Burkina Faso and was bought from a “runner” about twenty-five years ago. It’s about 9 1/2 inches high. Any information will be greatly appreciated.  Gary, 751

A:  A week ago this was posted on the Yahoo discussion group, African_Arts. It was promptly answered with “It is a Lobi Headdress.” (more…)


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Bete war mask

Ivory Coast, Africa

Ivory Coast, Africa

Q:  I bought this mask at the Tucson Gem Show African Pavilion about 7 years ago. I don’t remember where it came from, or if I was ever told. I think I paid $140.00 for it.  It is one of three of my favorite masks.  Ira, 750

A:  It doesn’t matter a whole lot what it is or how much you paid, if you really like it. (more…)


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The Barnes is a trip

aaaMystrySolvd-744Yesterday I took the train to downtown Philadelphia and got my first look at the famous Barnes Foundation in its new building. What a treat that was! In case you don’t know about it, the Barnes is the only museum in the world that displays African traditional art along with French Impressionism and other modern art… side by side!  See for yourself at www.barnesfoundation.org

In their office area I saw a recently made paper mask on the wall and asked about it. (more…)


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African art show in Bloomington, IN

Edo lizard mask, Nigeria

Edo lizard mask, Nigeria

Q:  We’re hosting a special exhibition called “Visions from the Forests: The Art of Liberia and Sierra Leone” at the Indiana University Art Museum. The centerpiece of the exhibition is over 30 different masks. I was doing a little web research, and came across your site, and thought you might find this exhibition interesting.  It opens March 7, and will continue to the High Museum in Atlanta afterwards. It has previously been on view at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and the Smithsonian. (more…)


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Nice Senufo Kpelie mask

Senufo Kplie mask

Senufo Kpelie mask

Q:  This is a mask I acquired at an estate sale, the owner of which appeared to be a mask collector. I was told that it is from Africa and that it is old but no other details. The mask is made out of wood which appears to have some age on it. It measures about 14″ long and 7″ wide. I would appreciate your insight as to the more specific origin and purpose/symbolism of this piece. The mouth of the mask particularly got me interested as to why it was designed that way. Very curious about your opinion of this piece!  Yuriy, 74

A: Your mask is called a Kpelie and comes from the Senufo people of Ivory Coast. (more…)


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