• Bali & Java

    Balinese masks, the most dramatic

    In a post on Nov 18 called “6 Mexican Devil masks” I wrote:  “In my opinion African masks are the most artistic, Japanese the best made, and Mexican the most creative.” A few days later this comment arrived:  “I think we need to give a mention to Balinese masks. Having spent some time with mask makers in Ubud*, I think their quality and the dedication they put to their masks is on par with the Japanese, and their artistry is equivalent to that of Africa.” I agree. Look at this fabulous version of Hanuman, the white monkey god. His honest personality and magical powers make him an important character in…

  • Africa

    Bobo mask from Burkina Faso

    Q:  I recently received a mask gift from my dad. He picked it up at an antique shop in Michigan that recently acquired a world traveler/collector’s collection. They didn’t have much info on it other than the collector likely picked it up in Africa on one of his trips. From what I’ve found online, it appears to be Bobo tribal mask of a buffalo and bird combo. All signs of wear, age and old smell point to it being authentic. Do you have any thoughts on this one? Value? Much appreciated!   Adam, 1488 A:  You researched this attractive mask well. If it was meant to be a mix of animals, …

  • Africa

    African mask missing its jaw

    Q:   Here are three pictures of a partial mask, as the lower part is missing.  We paid $15 dollars for it, and assume it is a tourist knockoff, but it looks interesting.  Fred, 1487 A:   I like the mask too.  It might even be real. Hard to think they would make a carving for tourists that is missing its reticulated jaw. Masks like this are made by the Dan, Kran and Guere people in Liberia and Ivory Coast. Look it up on Google images and you can learn more. I must now leave for a week-long trip.  B Correction:  I think I was too fast on this one. It…

  • Africa

    Bundu mask for women

    Q:  I recently became interested in a collection of African masks and have brought a few books on the subject. Unfortunately, I’m still pretty lost on dating and evaluating them. I saw few masks at an estate sale and am wondering if you can give me some guidance. The mask I like most is this one. I’m wondering if I should bid on it?  Name withheld, 1486 A:  Bundu masks, created in the 19th and 20th centuries in Sierra Leone, were crafted by men, but worn by women during Sande Society initiation masquerades. These masks represent the importance of women in Mende society, as well as the emphasis on adhering…

  • Misc

    Tribal deformity and sickness masks

    Back on July 22, 2017 I received the following email. “As you know, collectors occasionally run into deformity and disease masks. I’d like to hear more about them.  I’d especially be indebted if you started a blog thread on the topic.”  Nate, 1190 The first mask is a Mbangu from the Pende people of the DRC in central Africa.  It represents a hunter who has suffered a stroke from the curse of a local sorcerer. The second is from Sri Lanka and would be used by a village shaman to cure a patient. The third mask shows a poor man with a very large goiter. From Baja Verapaz, Guatemala, it…

  • Mexico

    Pre-Columbian Mexican mask?

    Q:  I have another mystery for you.  This mask was among a group of genuine 1970s dance masks from Mexico. My initial reaction was “tourist mask,” but the more I examined it, the more convinced I became that it’s authentic. The trouble is, I’ve never seen anything like it.  I can’t place the region of Mexico or the type of dance.  Do you have any ideas?  Aaron, 1484 A:  When Aaron < https://www.maskmuseum.org/> sends me an unusual mask it is always a challenge! But before I talk about his mask, take a look at the next mask that is supposed to be from Teotihuacan. “Although it is a subject of…

  • Mexico

    6 Mexican Devil masks

    In my opinion African masks are the most artistic, Japanese the best made, and Mexican the most creative. These 6 Devil masks are all original, and there are hundreds of other Diablos much different from each other as well. Geography and ethnicity both have something to do with this incredible diversity, but I also think Mexicans are more right-brained than the rest of us. Most mask collectors specialize in continents, countries or cultures. Please feel free to argue with me in a comment.  

  • Guatemala

    Unusual Maximon mask from Guatemala

    Q:  Here is a very unusual mask from Guatemala, probably from the 60-70’s. It is said to have been used in the Dance of “Los Viejitos” (Baile Xetones) in San Juan Chamelco, Alta Verapaz. But I do not find any similar masks on the web or in the books. Did you see such a mask before?  Jean,  1482 A:  The seller may be right. But I’m thinking it could be a Maximon (also called San Simon) mask. Most of the Maximon faces we see are the top part of doll-like statues that can range in size from small to the size of an adult man. They are icons placed in an…

  • Unknown

    Mystery Mask Contest

    Q:  I have a wooden hand carved mask. It  is 18H x 12.5W x 11D. It was found in storage auction unit that I won. I only know that previous owner traveled a lot in Asia, Africa and many  islands, and from every place he brought something. Wood masks, sculptures, helmets etc, nothing contemporary but  usually very  old antiques and he furnished his house with expensive furniture, pirate furniture made of wood of sunken ships. This mask is one of the collection. Where is it from? How old could it be and how much could it cost. Please, could you help me with that?  Eva, 1481 A:  Eva hasn’t given…

  • Africa

    Yaka mask from D R Congo, Central Africa

    Dr. Arthur P. Bourgeois says:  “Among the Nkanu, the initiation of young men to manhood is called Nzo Longo. Within this context, Kisokolo masks are distinguished by the two horns of the coiffure and sometimes an upturned nose. Representing a dancing chief with the reputation of a notorious womanizer, the mask dances with another called Makemba, a sorrowful feminine masquerade figure. The upturned nose of Kisokolo may have had a functional role, as initiates at the closing of nzo longo had to eat a piece of manioc bread and goat’s meat from the nose of the mask. Moreover, the full name of the mask is “Kisokolo kudidi mbumba” (“Kisokolo who…