• Mexico

    Attack of the powderpost beetles

    You can see this same mask (before the beetles struck) on page 130 of the new book, Masks of the World, by Ibold and Yohn. It is a deer mask from Oaxaca, Mexico. This style of mask has been danced by villagers for well over a hundred years. This one is 13 inches high and made of wood, deer skin and horns. It was collected in the 1960’s. Recently after being stored in my basement, I noticed that the dreaded beetles had been doing their nasty work on this beautiful mask! The nose area was the most damaged. So after the beetles were killed I was forced to do some…

  • Oceania

    Mudman mask from PNG

    Q:  Can you tell me where this pottery mask comes from and how old it is?  Robert, 998 A:  This is a mudman mask from the Asaro people of the Eastern highlands of Papua New Guinea. Made of clay, they were originally used to scare opposing warriors during an attack. Small ones like this are meant to be monkeys and today they are sold for profit to tourists. According to legend, an Asaro group were once driven into a swamp by an invading tribe. After plastering their heads with mud they launched a counterattack and frightened the enemy away. On pages 71 and 76 of Masks of the World by…

  • Mexico

    Old Mexican mask?

    Q:   I recently purchased a very unusual mask. It is extremely worn and aged and doesn’t look like anything I can find on the internet. I got it at an auction. There was no info. I am just trying to find out information about it,  but if I find out that it is valuable I would consider selling it.  Edgar, 997 A:  The mask appears to be a very old artifact that would look great on the wall. Possibly it is from Mexico, but there is not enough detail to be sure. Maybe it is old, but wood masks can deteriorate a lot in one year if left outside. Concerning…

  • Africa

    Great art from Africa

    This is an older mask in the collection of the Fowler Museum at UCLA. Similar to the previous mask sent to us by Marc, it’s from the same Bamileke people of the Cameroon Grasslands, but this one is worth much, much more. It was made by a famous carver for the king around 1900 and collected in 1925 by a French missionary.  994 It is a masterpiece! Look at how highly abstracted it is. Only a respected carver could get away with this much creativity. Also note that the design is simple and powerful, and that the textured areas are skillfully rendered. Truly great masks are of high quality… not…

  • Africa

    Classic mask from the Grasslands

    Q:  This mask has been in my family for around 50 years. We don’t know much about it, but it was a gift from a doctor who traveled in Africa. I’m trying to get pointed in the right direction, any help would be great!  Marc, 996 A:  The right direction would be the Grasslands Region of Northern Cameroon. Perhaps the carver is from the Bamileke tribe, but there are a few other nearby groups with similar styles. The character is traditional, but even though it is at least 50 years old, I suspect it was made for the runners and tourists.  B “Runners” is a term for Africans who make…

  • Africa

    Elvis Presley Nyau mask from Malawi

    Adam:  I’m really very interested in a category of mask that isn’t hugely desirable to the collecting market. I like 20th century pieces that are brightly painted, but have been tribally used, particularly the Nyau masks of the Chewa, Guere masks and Igbo/Yoruba masquerade pieces. Me:  Once I bought a collection of Chewa masks, but they are long gone. Four from that collection are on page 31 of my book, Masks of the World. This image of Elvis Presley is a Nyau mask from the Brooklyn Museum collection. Isn’t it fantastic!? The characters in Nyau Society performances often involves reverse role playing and the masks are sometimes humorous in nature.…

  • Africa

    Excellent Gelede mask from Nigeria

    Me:  Before I post this mask you recently acquired, could you tell me more about it? Aaron:  I really don’t know much. I bought it at an auction. It’s the normal size, but it hasn’t been artificially aged. It looks to be 30 years old or so, although who knows. The maker used an oil-based paint, which is pretty unusual in tourist masks but not too uncommon in masks for tribal use, I think. That’s about all I know, other than the general information about the Gelede ceremony from two excellent books, Henry Drewal’s “Gelede: Art and Female Power Among the Yoruba” and Babatunde Lawal’s “The Gelede Spectacle”. Me:  Gelede…

  • Native America,  Unknown

    Leather skull mask

    Q:  The one that looks like a skull is the one made from a hide.  The attached braids and beads are very brittle.  I know nothing about it.  My Dad passed away 10 years ago and it was tucked away in a trunk.  He loved Native American art and collected some pipes and other objects many years ago.  I’m guessing this was one of his finds.  I’d love to know the origin of it.  Mostly I’m concerned about the condition and would like to see it restored or preserved.  Marc, 991 A:  This mask is too much of a mystery for me. I hope one of our visitors will have…

  • Mexico

    The wild and crazy Tastoanes

    Q:  The tastoanes masks are made by a pretty well-known guy in Tonalá, but they are made out of fired clay rather than leather. The first one (2a) is leather, but the second (3c) is ceramic. Enjoy!  Aaron, 990 A:  Look at the detail on this beautifully made ceramic mask. It is indeed a work of art. You can see two others from Santa Cruz de las Huerta, also in the state of Jalisco, by going to page 116 in the book Masks of the World. Typically these scary dance masks are made of strong leather that is coated with plaster and then painted. The colors are usually brighter than…

  • Africa

    Masks of the World book for $9.97

    You can have this excellent reference book on your smart phone for just $9.97. The pictures look just as good as the printed book. Here is a Mbangu mask from the Pende people of the Democratic Republic of Congo. It represents a hunter who has suffered a stroke from the curse of a sorcerer. Collectors call this a sickness or deformity mask. It is on page 17 of Masks of the World by Ibold & Yohn. You can buy the digital version here on the website or by going directly to Amazon.com. What a wonderful source of info when at an auction, thrift store, tourist shop, etc!