African tourist mask


Q:  I bought this at a art group in Tijeras, New Mexico from a Nigerian fellow that had a bunch of masks.  He mentioned where it was from, but I can’t remember.  However, I do believe it was West African.  I paid $80 for it.  He said something about Fertility, and possibly a guardian of some sort.

A:  This mask certainly looks like it was made in West Africa by a carver who supplies shops and runners like your Nigerian. But I can’t pin it down to a particular tribe or country. It seems to be a mix of several styles. Carved and painted quickly, then distressed to make it look old, this piece would have been bought by the runner for very little. Since you didn’t have to leave the USA, you got it for a fair price.  C
I sometimes tell people who send in a Mystery Mask like this that it can be fine for decoration. But real masks– the ones that are actually worn in native cultures– are often better looking and always more interesting. Maybe you can start exploring the field by visiting libraries, the internet, museums and tribal art dealers. It could be a lot of fun!


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