• Europe

    Fasnacht mask from Bavaria

      The festival of Fasnacht is a carnival in German folklore that takes place in the few days before Lent in Southern Germany, Switzerland and Alsace. The celebration literally means ‘Fasting Eve’ as it originally referred to the day before the fasting season of Lent. The schools are closed for this festival and all over the Black Forest there are six days of parties and making merry. This particular mask with its strange nose is old and used. Could this be the infamous Ruebezahl?

  • South America

    Tukuma initiation mask from the Amazon

    Q:  I have five of what I think are women coming of age ceremonial masks. I would love to get an appraisal. Please let me know how you would like to proceed. Thank you very much for your help!  Nikki, 1164 A:  Thanks for sending the pictures. Instead of paying me for appraising your five Tukuna masks, let’s see if we can get some comments from from our readers. Like the one pictured here, all have descriptions and prices stapled to the bark cloth. This one is priced at $35, the others range up to $85. When were they brought back from the Amazon? If that was in the 1970’s,…

  • Africa

    Pere mask from the DRC

    Q:  I was hoping you can identify the possible age and origin of 1 of 2 masks purchased from a local sale here in New Jersey?  Both were purchased for less than $10 and the size of the painted wooden one I’m inquiring about here is roughly 10 x 7-1/2 x 5 inches. Can you please help?  Jo, 1163 A:  Fortunately I was able to discover a similar mask from the Pere of the DRC. They are a semi-nomadic tribe in northeastern area somewhere between the Komo and the Ndaaka that came from Uganda in the 1800’s. It was suggested the mask was used to celebrate the ancestor cult, Ndekele,…

  • Africa

    Yoruba Gelede Mask

    Q:  I bought this mask last year for $75 on eBay.  There is a receipt showing that the mask was sold in 1970 for $275 at a fundraiser for an art museum.  I haven’t been able to identify it, but the colonial figure on top is interesting. Thanks for all your help so far.  I am a “senior citizen” who began collecting after I bought a mask at our local flea market one year ago, and I hope that I have a few treasures among the trash.  Fred, 1162 A:  This Gelede wooden headdress is a treasure carved from a single piece of light wood. The human face appears to…

  • Mexico

    Mexican decorative

    Q:  Here I’ve attached pictures of my mask. It’s pretty small, so I don’t think it’s meant to be worn except maybe by a toddler. It’s about 8″ in diameter, maybe less. I got it for free on my local buy nothing group (Facebook) here in Seattle so I didn’t pay anything for it. Any info you could tell me about it would be wonderful. Thanks, Tracy, 1161 A:  Mexican decoratives are not really masks, nor are they meant to be authentic artifacts. They’re wall-hangings made for tourists. I find them colorful, inventive, and almost as interesting as real dance masks. Mexican mask makers are very creative and frequently come…

  • East Asia

    Black-faced monk from Korea

    This mask is very popular in Yangju, South Korea. In the dance drama this ugly old man tries to seduce a pretty girl. The white dots on his black face are supposed to represent small pox. There are quite a few characters in these celebrations, but the favorites are monks and pretty girls. The girl masks are colored white and the monks are black. This one is made out of wood. The other common material used in Yangju is papier mache. Korean masks look much different from those of other countries around the world.  B+

  • Guatemala

    Guatemala is the place for masks

    This photo was taken at a museum in Guatemala City. The featured mask (with costume) is for the Deer Dance. The ones on the wall come from different dances. Shops will rent masks and costumes to the locals for an affordable price. They’re called morerias. This small country takes masquerade very seriously. There are many unique masks for tourists and collectors to enjoy. In my book, Masks of the World, I devote a whole chapter to this special part of the world. Save

  • Bali & Java

    Classic dance mask from Java

    Q:  I have 6 authentic Javanese dancing masks from the early 1900’s. We got them from a parent who was an original member of the Denishawn school of dancing in Los Angeles in 1915.  The masks were part of a world tour.  It’s possible there are pictures of the dancers with the masks.  I did some research on Denishawn dance and if you are a dancer then you know what its all about.  Tracie, 1158 A:  It’s nice to see a group of characters from a Javanese traditional dance drama, though I will use just one for this blog. It would be Sita, the beautiful queen of the great king…

  • Africa

    Traditional Bobo mask

    Q:  I’d appreciate any information on this mask. I bought it at an estate sale several years ago. It is very light wood and the paint seems to be original. Could it be part of a totem?  I’ve searched lots of sites with no results.  Mickey, 1157 A:  The Bobo (or Bwa) live in the dry savannah land of central Burkina Faso. Like other people in this area, they seek the help of powerful spirits who live in the wild forests, bush country and rivers surrounding their villages. This mask is traditional in design and its choice of black, white and red. The triangular jaw (or beak) is not seen…

  • East Asia

    Hannya the She Devil

    Q:  My mother brought this mask with her when she moved to the main land from Kauai, HI. She told me someone she knew got it from the Wilcox family estate on Kauai in the 70s. I’m assuming it is Japanese from looking at the style and markings on the rear. I am interested in learning more about it.  Michael, 1156 A:  It is indeed Japanese– one of the most famous characters from the classic Noh theater, Hannya the she devil. Just Google her for more information. The good news is that all kinds of Americans love this character, not just mask collectors, so you can sell it easily. The…