• Africa

    Interesting fake from Cameroon

    Q: Hi, thank you for your help. I have this mask and can not find another one like it. What can you tell me! I have an excess of masks, and am trying to sell some of them. Diane, 1567 A: I haven’t seen one quite like this. A good guess is that it was made somewhere in Cameroon to look like an old and used Ekoi helmet mask. They are often of carved wood covered with animal skin and painted. The overall structure is of stiff basketry. If you try to sell it I hope you resist calling it an authentic Ekoi mask. It is instead a quickly made…

  • South America

    Mama Negra mask from Ecuador

    The Quechua-speaking people who live in the mountainous regions of Ecuador are enthusiastic users of masquerade. Their well carved and painted masks can be easily recognized because of round eye holes and heavy hardwood. There are many different dances and even more characters. Mama Negra is one of the most famous. This example appears to be old, used, and has more detail than most. Each year in November, the city of Latacunga, Ecuador celebrates Mama Negra, a figure of national fame. The festival and parade originated in 1742 when local residents turned to the Virgin of Merced to save them from a possible eruption of the nearby Cotopaxi Volcano. Today,…

  • Misc

    Muslim masks

    I’m starting with a Marka mask from Mali, a country that is almost entirely Muslim. The second photo is a niqab, something you would expect to see in a Muslim country. Many African countries have a rich tradition of crafted masks. During the seventh century and the beginning of Islam, Muslims migrated to North Africa. They also pushed into territories further south that eventually became the Republic of Sudan, Chad, Niger, Mali, and several others. We know that the Islamic religion has always discouraged masquerade. But many of these African cultures had ancient artistic traditions in mask-making for indigenous celebrations. They made masks that represented spirits and gods. In their…

  • Bali & Java

    Old Balinese mask

    Q: Wondering about the history of this mask. My grandfather was on the USS Baltimore during WW11. He brought this mask home, called her ‘Callie’, hung her over the back door and said she would ward off evil. No one remembers anything else. Kati, 1564 A: You have a mask made for the classic dance dramas of Bali. Poorly carved and painted, it is probably from a small village, 75 to 100 years ago. It has been quickly repaired and repainted to attract off-duty sailors. Because of its sloppy appearance and interesting history, I think it would add something unusual to a collection of Balinese masks. B-

  • Europe

    Strange masks from Basque country

    Q: Hi, I am Basque from the Spanish Basque Country, do you know anything about Basque masks? We have some in our traditions. Fernando, 1563 A: I know nothing about Basque masks. So I looked around the internet and found these four crazy masks from the the appropriate region of Northern Spain. All four seem to be photographed at local carnivals. Perhaps you could do some research, and maybe one of our viewers will have something to contribute as well.

  • Africa

    Kota reliquary guardian figure

    Q: I am curious about this. I won it at a raffle in Washington DC and was told that someone in the state department had brought it back from, generically, Africa. Any information? Natasha, 1562 A: This is not a mask. It is an almost flat, sculpted portrait that seems to show up in African mask collections because of its unique appearance and beauty. They vary in size, but always follow the same format. Sizes can range from 6 inches 3 feet. This one is 21 inches. They are made with a combination of wood and hammered metal. The Kota once used reliquary guardian figures (called mbulu ngulu) to protect…

  • Bali & Java

    Balinese clown mask

    Q: Unfortunately, this time I messed up. I made an offer for a minimum price and it was accepted. I’m pretty sure it’s a fake. No holes for eyes, red paint. You can confirm? Thank you, Monica, 1561 A: Some of our viewers, especially beginning collectors, will appreciate your willingness to admit a mistake. If I were still collecting, I might have done the same. What you have is a clever interpretation of the ugly hair-lipped clown that delights audiences in performances of the Topeng dance drama. Though everything you feared is correct, this mask is a interesting version of the famous clown. It would be nice to hang it…

  • Africa

    Bwa rooster mask, Burkina Faso

    Q: What type of mask and how much should I sell it for as I no longer have the space to keep it. Jeanne, 1560 A: The Bwa usually carve masks that symbolize animals or spirits of the bush which are then worn during ceremonies for the new crop, initiations or funerals. They are highly abstracted and come in many different design variations. You don’t see a lot of them for sale, and this can be confusing for beginning collectors. I’m sorry, but as a professional appraiser I cannot give you a selling price or any marketing information without payment of a fee.

  • Africa

    Suku helmet mask from Africa

    Q: We’ve had this mask since the early 90s. At the time a college friend worked for a woman (whose parents had been in Africa for many years) who had an African imports and artifacts store here in Minneapolis. I photographed the artifacts for her and she gave us the mask. Sporadic web searches over the years have yielded no useful results. At this point I would simply like to know if it appears likely to merit an appraisal. Drew, 1559 A: Suku, also called Basuku, people of southwestern Congo (Kinshasa) and northwestern Angola. They speak a Bantu language of the Niger-Congo group of languages. Suku women cultivate cassava (yuca)…

  • Misc

    The masks of India

    For years I have admired the hundreds of different masks that are used in that big country with so many cultures and traditions. I even put an Indian mask of the cover of our book, Masks of the World. Though India is the second largest country in the world, I have never been able to find a book about Indian masks. The first photo shown here is from the Monpa culture in Arunachal Pradesh. The second is a carved and painted sacred cow from New Delhi, and the third is a Chhau mask from Purulia (also shown on the cover of our book). The largest country in the world is…