• Bali & Java

    Village mask from Java

    Q:  I just bought this mask on Ebay for $45.  I believe that it is from Bali.  What interested me is the leather tab seen on the inside of the mask, possible to be used by a dancer to hold on to it.  I thought you might be interested in the photos.  Thanks,  Deb, 1499 A:  On Feb 16 of this year someone sent in an interesting mask. I answered: “It is from Java, but not old. It is easy to see that this decorative wall-hanging was quickly carved, painted with some nice colors, and then antiqued to make it look old. Antiquing is easy to do with stained varnish…

  • India & Himalayas

    Citipati (Ging) Mask From Tibet

    I believe this is an older Ging mask per the following information I found on the net.  “In the Himalayan Buddhist Cham dances 3 different levels of skull masks & skeleton costumes are used. The lowest level of skeleton dancers are the Ging, boy monks who dance in a basic costume and skull mask. They play a semi-comical character and have no skull diadem and no ear decorations– no adornments of any kind. This can be considered the entry-level of skeleton dancers.”  Dan, 1498 A:  Dan is a very serious collector and I am pleased he is sharing this with us. Study it carefully. This is authentic, old and used…

  • India & Himalayas

    Nice Mahakala mask from Tibet

    Q:  I collect different items that I like. I started with african masks and continue with others. Here I would like to show one of the three masks that I prefer (guess they are from Nepal). They are made of strong papier mache.  Monica, 1497 A:  Mahakala is a tantric Buddhist deity of the Vajrayana tradition. He is one of the most important protector of dharma, and considered to be the wrathful and fierce emanation of Avalokiteshvara and Cakrasaṃvara. Mahakala is also worshiped by Hindus as an ultimate manifestation of Lord Shiva  and consort of Kali (Maha-Kali) representing the destructive power of Brahman. The common element of the Mahakala mask…

  • Unknown

    Popular tourist mask from somewhere

    Q:  I’d like to know more about where this mask is from. I received it as a gift from a guy who didn’t know anything about it. It looks like horse hair around the mask.  Tim, 1496 A:  People have sent  many of these masks to me over the years. I always answer with a disappointing “I think its a tourist mask from somewhere in Asia.” Maybe one of our viewers can remember where they are made.

  • Africa

    Chokwe Pwo mask of Angola or DRC

    Q:  I’m very excited about this submission! When I bought this mask I was told it is from Mali. The seller claimed it to be as old as 200 years but I have a hard time believing that (the red fabric presents an elastic hinge and I’m quite sure it comes from a modern garment). Besides it  cost me only 100 euros. The face piece is wood, but I can’t tell which kind. It has burlap parts, hay, sea shells, and feathers on top. Could it be a Dogon dance mask? Thank you for any info or opinion you will share!  Gianluca, 1495 A: I’m excited too… but sellers of…

  • Africa

    Why we collect masks

    We collect for two reasons: art and anthropology. Some collectors lean toward one or the other, but it’s the combination of the two that is so enjoyable. Art can be many things. In the case of most masks it is both sculpture and painting. When the artists of Europe in the 19th century first saw masks imported from West Africa, they were stunned. Gradually the style of modern art began to change on both sides of the Atlantic. I love the beauty of tribal masks and that is the first thing I look for. Anthropology is equally important. Exactly in what culture was the mask used or meant to be…

  • India & Himalayas

    Help identify a mask. India?

      Q:  Please identify. I need help if you can.  Marion, 1493 A:  I found this mask to be quite interesting. The material of construction is unrecognizable, none the less, it is well made and something that is authentic tribal art. Once I saw a heavy wood mask from southern India that looked much different but had the same pitchfork symbol on its forehead. Is the red character on the left rear a clue? Otherwise, this mask is a total mystery to me. Incidentally, Marion didn’t leave a correct email address so I could not ask her the usual what, where, when and how much. Please enlarge the photos and…

  • Misc

    Mexican decorative masks, collectible or not?

    Q:   I have a mask bought in Mexico (Playa del Carmen) from a collector for ~$60 CAD. The mask is made of wood and has goat horns. The seller claimed it was used by a dancer but I cannot remember where. It has holes on the back that appear to be for wearing. I am wondering what you think of this mask, and I am unsure where it would be from. If you have anything else to say about this mask I’d be happy to hear it, its my first and only mask in my collection so far.  Trevor, 1492 A:  Your mask is called a decorative. It is…

  • Europe

    Bulgarian kukeri masks

    In a practice dating back millennia, Bulgaria’s kukeri dancers don dramatic costumes to dispel evil and invite good. The ritual is a public one, profoundly ancient, full of spectacle and metaphor. Around early winter or midwinter, groups of kukeri (pronounced KOO-kuh-ree) don elaborate costumes—complete with fantastical masks and belts of massive metal bells—and accompany musicians throughout the village, dancing rhythmically to drive away evil and invite good. They are “multipurpose” rituals: The bells clanging and the costumes shocking faces divert the evil eye, but the mummers’ dancing path throughout the village also invoke the fertility of people, animals, and agriculture. Kukeri rituals have also served as coming-of-age ceremonies for young…

  • Africa

    Punu Mukuyi mask from Gabon

    This white-faced maiden is sometimes mistaken for a character from the Japanese Noh theater. It is from the Musee du quai Branli and is one of the best Punu masks I have ever seen. Think how this highly abstracted sculpture would have shocked European artists in the late 19th century. The Punu were originally part of the Luango kingdom of Angola in the 18th century, and settled in south and southwest Gabon. In the Mukuyi society it represented a female guardian spirit in the funerary rites, initiation of adolescent girls and ancestral cult. At the burial ceremonies of this Punu society the mask represented a female ancestor. This mask has…