• India & Himalayas

    Sinhalese mask from Sri Lanka

    Rrakasa Mask Sri Lanka Wood, pigment Early 20th Century 7 inches A stunning mask by any measure, this demon portrayal was used to heal through exorcism. Thomas Murray www.tmurrayarts.com I think it is important for collectors to know that the unique masks we think of as Sri Lankan comes from the Sinhalese people who occupy the southern and central parts of the island. A majority of Sinhalese people adhere to Theravada Buddhism rather than Hinduism.The origins of the Sri Lankan Civil War lie in the continuous political rancor between the majority Sinhalese and the minority Tamils who live in the north. The roots of the modern conflict go back to…

  • Native America

    Another Eskimo mask from Alaska

    Q:  I bought a series of Yup’ik masks from an antique dealer–they were from an estate sale and had been originally purchased in the 1950s.  I just wanted your opinion of this particular one (which is one of the two best ones in the collection). The dimensions are 22″ high, 8″ wide for mask alone, 14″ wide including lattice sticks on side (which I think represent ripples in the water) but not including appendages, and about 2 1/2″ depth for mask alone (not including appendages).  Matthew, 1234 A:  Yup’ik masks play an important role in the ceremonial life of these Eskimos who live close to the Bering Sea. A variety…

  • Africa

    Blended mask from West Africa

    Q:  Please help me identify what kind of mask is that and if its authentic or any information you can give me will be highly appreciated. Thank you!  Natalya, 1233 A:  You can easily say this mask is from somewhere in West Africa. It certainly has a nice looking face with a great bird on top, but I can’t tell what tribe made it. The design elements are a mix coming from different cultures in that part of Africa. We see a lot of blended masks these days. This should not surprise– Africans, like us, can easily see masks from other places. Authenticity means used for celebrations rather than sale…

  • Oceania

    Fern mask from Thomas Murray

    When I see something this unusual I just have to pass it along to our readers. Ritual mask Malekula Island, Vanuatu Fern root 19th or early 20th Century 13.5 inches This mask of extraordinary presence and age is likely to have been carved on Malekula Island for a spirit ritual. The purpose of such pieces has not been well documented but the great ones, as in this case, are plainly early. Save

  • Native America

    How masks help tell the legend of the Wild Woman

    Tsonokwa transformation masks made by artist Scott Jensen are part of the Whatcom Museum education collection. The story of Tsonokwa (Dzunuk’wa, Tsonoqua) or Wild Woman of the Woods, is a Northwest Coast Native legend about a mythical, dark-haired, large female being who captures children and carries them home in a basket to eventually eat them. Parents used the Tsonokwa story as a warning to keep their children safe and discourage them from venturing too far into the forest “or Tsonokwa might get you and eat you.” In the story, the children usually manage to outwit Tsonokwa and escape from her captivity. Many Northwest Coast native artists have created cedar masks…

  • Africa

    Younger buyers and five figure sales mark “turning point”

    This Ivory Coast Ligbi mask was one of the highlight sales at the recent edition of Tribal Art London. The anthropomorphic face mask, measuring 30cm (12in) tall, is carved in wood with pigments, cloth and fibers. It was offered with a good provenance for a price in the region of $16,000 by first-time exhibitor Mark Eglinton, who is based in New York. Tribal Art London, which took place from September 6-9 at the Mall Galleries, featured 23 exhibitors. It was the largest event to date for the fair which is now 10 years old. It is organized by Bryan Reeves of Tribal Gathering London who called this a “turning point”.…

  • Native America

    Eskimo artifacts: fantasy in a cold climate

    This is part of an article by Susan More in the Sep 29, 2017 Financial Times. Both masks are Yup’ik and, if you found one, it better be a recently-made fake or you surely wouldn’t be able to afford it. These are more Surreal than we are!, an indignant André Breton apparently exclaimed when he first encountered a Yup’ik ceremonial mask in New York. It is little wonder that the Surrealists were fascinated by these colored, strikingly adorned artifacts since they are among the most inventive, expressive and fantastical of all tribal arts. We threw ourselves into the poetic atmosphere of the Eskimo masks. We breathe in Alaska, we dream…

  • East Asia

    Decorative wall hanging

    Q:  Could you please tell me more about this mask, where it’s from and if it has any value?  Ronald, 1228 A:  I normally publish real masks on the Mask Man blog, not decorative art. But I thought this might be a copy of a Japanese Bugaku mask. Wrong! Only places like India, Nepal, China and Indonesia do masks with their tongue hanging out. And this is obviously not a real mask, but something nobody could wear. It can only be art for the wall. One of the problems with non-masks is that they often add and subtract features that come from other cultures. This is confusing and something most…

  • Oceania

    Matua mask from Oceania

    Northeast of Papua New Guinea is the much smaller island of New Ireland. Though small in size and population, the Melanesian people who live there have always had a rich tradition of masquerade. After the Cook explorations in the middle 19th century, a few of their masks began to show up in Europe, and like so many of the West African masks (the Yaure-Baule you just saw), those few Oceanic masks also had an effect on European modern art. If you go to the “Oceania” category in our archive you can see another much different mask from New Ireland. They are both very artistic and complex, and unfortunately, quite rare.…

  • Africa

    Beautiful Yaure mask from Africa

    This is such great art I know you will enjoy seeing it. Imagine the impact pieces like this had on European painters and sculptures in the late 19th century! The following copy from a tribal art dealer’s ad is interesting… These sculptural masks have often been identified as Yaure, a less populous group who depending on their proximity to their neighbors either speak Baule or Mande. Both Yaure and Baule art, culture and masquerade performances are closely related. The Yaure masks have similar horn like projections carved with patterns and oval heart shaped faces. The scalloped hairline and elaborately carved patterns above it, representing the coiffure, are also typical of…