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Old monkey mask from SW China

Chinese Nuo mask

Chinese Nuo mask

Every so often I plan to repeat one of my favorite masks posted years back. This one is a Nuo monkey mask from Jinguan village, Anshun district, Guizhou provincial territory. It’s an 8.3 inch thin carving with a sturdy native repair. The old Nuo mask was obviously used for a great many years and the wear has resulted in a wonderful patina. The monkey’s face is portrayed with deftly carved lines and each eye is highlighted with a  metal tack. In my opinion– Chinese folk art at its best.

Masks like this are becoming hard to find. (more…)


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Where did the snakes come from?

Mexican decorative

Mexican decorative

Q:  I just found this mask at an estate sale.  I have no information about it and cannot find anything similar online. I’m speculating that it is old and authentic. Any information would be immensely helpful in appraising it.   Lori, 661

A:  It is common for people to speculate that a carved wood mask may have considerable monetary value. (more…)


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Interesting but unusual

Maybe Burkina Faso

Maybe Burkina Faso

Q:  I bought this on ebay years ago. I know nothing about masks, but I like all things old! It is developing significant cracks. There are several small holes that look like they could possibly accommodate feathers of some sort. There are also two small holes on each side that probably were used to attach some sort of string or strap to wear the mask.The mask measures 19 inches by 7 inches. I’m not sure about the type of wood, but it is very heavy. any help would be greatly appreciated.  Chris, 660

A:  The Bwa people of Burkina Faso in West Afrrica is a wild guess, (more…)


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Some African masks are scary

Ivory Coast

Ivory Coast

A:  This mask was given to me by my mother-in-law who lived in the Ivory Coast from 1948 – 1993. She expressed the rarity of the mask but never explained which tribe it came from. It is 15 1/2 inches from ear tip to ear tip and 11 1/2 inches from top to bottom. My wife’s parents were great collectors of antique African art and when they gave me this mask, they intimated that it was one of the nicer pieces in their collection. Can you please try and identify where the mask came from and if it is truly rare, thanks.  Gary, 659

B: This is called a Kaogle mask (more…)


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Excellent example of PNG art

Sepik River Mask

Sepik River Mask

Q:  I bought this Mask and I would like to know where it came from. It is 31 inches long I bought it from a friend who inherited it for $100.
I will send the back picture in a minute.Thank you.  Jean, 658

A:  You lucked into a nice example of an ancestor spirit mask from one of the tribes living in the Sepik River area of Papua New Guinea. (more…)


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Mask from Nigeria, not the Congo

Mfon Ekpo mask

Mfon Ekpo mask

Q: Bob, I always avoid African stuff… that said this one caught my attention as being authentic. Figured I would share. (This was an ebay auction identified as African– possibly Chokwe or from somewhere in the Congo.)  Nathan, 657

A:  It is African but a Mfon Ekpo mask from Ibibio people of Southeastern Nigeria. Because you think it is authentic let’s talk about that. (more…)


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Old Javanese mask

Topeng character

Topeng character

Q:  This mask was found on a flee market in Amsterdam. It measures 17 to 15 cm and is of bright light wood. However, the back is darkened considerably, I don’t know whether by wearing or by paint. It shows heavy use, does not smell and has some old blackened worm holes. A part of it and the nose fell off several times and was glued back again. There is some repainting on the face. Those eyes glow considerably in the half dark. I guess it’s a Topeng character, but I do not know which one. What do you think? How old could it be? And how could it be worn so much if it has no holes for strings? Thanks.  Chris, 656

A: One can never be sure when looking at small photos, (more…)


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Pair of Chi Wara “masks”

female and male headdresses

female and male headdresses

I thought this photo of two Chi Wara headdresses, both male and female versions danced by the Bamana people of Mali, was something many of you would like to see. The photo comes from the collection at Virginia Union University and was part of an excellent string of emails on the African_Arts@yahoogroups.com titled “Do authentic Chi Wara headdresses ever include applied metal strips?”

Two things are accomplished by this. (more…)


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Art from the forests and mountains

Austrian folk mask

Austrian folk mask

Q:  I just bought this Austrian Mask for a great price.  Its not the 3rd or 4th German/Austrian mask that I’ve owned, that is carved in detail, carved to ergonomically be worn (such as the nose recess), yet has no holes, strings, or otherwise showing that its been used or was ever going to be used. Do you know why that is? Are they art first and wearable masks second? Left to the owner to attach strings themselves?  I find that odd.  Nathan, 654

A:  Folk masks have been carved in Southern Germany, Switzerland, Northern Italy and Austria for many centuries. (more…)


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Maybe old and used

West Africa

West Africa

Q:  I am fascinated by old items, but have no interest in commercial masks. This mask was found in an old explorer/adventurer estate auction. He had been traveling Africa on digs in the 50′s. I have little or no idea of the origin or age, but is sure it is not commercial, but an original.  653

A:  Based on the three beautiful photos you sent in I think there may be some collector interest in this mask. (more…)


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