• Guatemala

    Here is an authentic Guatemalan mask

    Q:  Here is a nice example of the “Torito” mask from Rabinal, Baja Verapaz, Guatemala. The presence of the scorpion between the horns is frequent, but the design of this one is of exceptional quality. Old repairs can be well seen on the back. Leather ears. From the 50-60s.   Jean, 1450 A: You have sent beautiful photos of one of the better Guatemalan toritos I have seen… at least in quite awhile. Years ago there were morerias that made masks, usually of Spanish characters, that could have been carved by Michelangelo. This high degree of excellence applied to other characters as well. The quality of carving in Guatemala has been…

  • Africa

    Reproductions of African masks can be collectible

    Q:  I own a what I believe is a Dan mask which has been in the family for quite some time now. It has been much appreciated but now in search of a new home. Was wondering if you could tell me some things about the mask.   Dagomar, 1449 A:  Thanks for the excellent photos. Your Dan is the deangle type, with the familiar slit eye holes and vertical ridge on the bulging forehead. It is considered by the Dan to be very feminine. Even though it is a reproduction that could have been carved someplace other than Liberia or the Ivory Coast, it makes a great impression with it’s…

  • Africa

    Baule mask from West Africa

    The Baule were a tribe that originated in the present day Ivory Coast area in Africa many years ago.  The Baule assimilated a number of their neighbors’ masquerade forms: a naturalistic face mask, a horned helmet mask, and a flat circular mask called kple kple. The last of these, a male mask of junior rank, is one of several paired works that would perform sequentially in Goli society entertainments or funerals. It impersonates an unruly nature spirit that is considered to be both frightening and amusing. The flat, disk-shaped face with ringed eyes and rectangular mouth is surmounted by ears and large curving horns. The bold red coloring has contrasting…

  • Mexico

    New Parachico mask from Mexico

    Q:  Actually I have 100 Mexican masks.  A few also from Africa and Sri Lanka, but my main concern is the Mexican Collection.  They are all authentic dance masks I purchased from a collector in Mexico, so I know they are real, historic, danced in masks.  I can send a bit of info for each such as origin, character and dance plus a photo.  What would the cost be to give me an appraisal for each?  Michelle, 1447 A:  Michelle is asking for an appraisal estimate on high quality masks. I picked out this Parachico to share with my viewers what quality can mean. This one is new, but age…

  • Bali & Java

    Did she get a good deal?

    Q:  I bought this very cool mask in Ubud, Bali at an Antique shop. I believe it is depicting the deity Barong, a protective spirit. I’m not really sure how to tell how old it is or of it’s authenticity, but it sure is neat even if it’s just a low grade decorative piece! It’s about 9″ x 8″ with a depth of about 3.5-4″. It’s covered in some dirt and I’m not 100% sure how to best clean it without damage. Do you have any suggestions? It’s painted/stained with some red and gold tones and is definitely made of wood, but I’m not sure which kind. We didn’t pay…

  • India & Himalayas

    Kolam mask from Sri Lanka

    Q:  My wife and I own this mask that we believe comes from the Indian Ocean part of the world.  It is made from a light weight wood, has some damage, but looks good on our shelf.  Frederick, 1445 A:  You are right about location. This is a reproduction of a Kolam mask from Sri Lanka, the largest island in the Indian Ocean.The Kolam drama has existed from 15th century, but some Sri Lanka legends said that this genre of drama has a history spanning more than 2500 years. Regarding the definition of the term Kolam, most reseachers have argued that the word has its origins in South India. The…

  • East Asia

    Japanese fox mask with moving jaw

    Q:  I would appreciate you posting this old Japanese  mask of mine. Your viewers can see more on the eBay site by searching for “maskmonger.”  Nate, 1444 A:  Kitsune is the Japanese name for this fox mask. There’s patina attesting to multiple times that this mask was culturally danced. Note the articulating jaw that would move during the performance. Signed by “MOTONAGA” or “GENCHOU”. This mask was made and used at sacred Shinto performances during the Kagura shrine festivals. Given Japans rapidly shrinking population, which is making small towns and their shrines close, it seems all the more likely that this is an actual Shrine mask. The dancer wearing this…

  • Unknown

    Where is this mask from?

    Q:  I am doing some research for a community group on museum objects that are locked away in stores with no information about them. We have located this mask but can not find any information on it.  Tara, 1443 A:  This is a mystery mask. It is labeled “East Africa,” but I doubt if that is where it is from. Though it has a primitive look, this wood carving has been quickly made with steel carving tools and a branding tool. It’s probably made for sale to tourist. The question is “where does it come from?”  If you have any ideas, please make a comment. Let’s help Tara.

  • Bali & Java

    Indonesian dance mask for the poor

    Q:  I got these at a online auction and that is all I know about them except the Egyptian looking one is a little smaller than the other two.  Charles, 1442A:  I believe this is a dance mask from the Diem Mountain region of Java. But I’m not sure. It could be from other rural regions of Java, Bali or Lombok. Carved by a poor man in a small village, it appears to be old and used. Masks from the urban areas are always of better craftsmanship. For the classic wayang topeng dance drama, this mask is pretty crude.  This is made worse by the angle of the first photograph.…

  • East Asia

    Why such a distorted Japanese mask?

    The use of masks in Japan started from 10,000 BCE. They are used in plays and rituals, and for Noh theater. Today there are a wide range of characters, ranging from very realistic to extreme exaggerations.  This one is called Hyottoko. He can be used for comic interludes in Noh plays. The inexpensive papier mache version shown here can also be used by street performers and the general public.  In the USA it can show up for Halloween. Hyottoko, is probably the strangest-looking character of Japanese masquerade.  Of course, he is very funny looking and very strange.  But I think he would be disturbing enough to strike fear in somebody…