• Misc

    Another beautiful Mahakala

    Q: I think this is a mask from India/Himalayas, possibly of the deity Mahakala. Wanted to know more! I inherited a collection, and am interested in this one from Asia. Mattie, 1715 A: You are right. I posted one almost exactly like yours back in 2018. It wasn’t quite as nicely painted and had been used. Please take a look at it. https://masksoftheworld.com/nice-mahakala-mask-from-tibet/ These artistic papiermache masks are made by monks for ceremony… and income for the monastery from generous tourists. A-

  • Africa

    More on African masks

    The Mask Man: The first photo was shot at a Dogon village ceremony, the second one is a recently made fake. Authentic African masks are found in museums and high-end galleries– not at local auctions and yard sales. I Googled “African tribal masks” and looked carefully at about 300 images. Only 16 were authentic! I wasn’t too surprised. The Mask Man has been looking at photos of mystery masks sent in to this website for almost 20 years. I answer all of the emails but only post about 10% nowadays. As I have said before, if you buy a mask in Africa or anywhere else, assume it was made for…

  • Mexico

    Mexican tin mask for tourist

    Q: I used to create various tribal masks, sometimes with metal and allied items. Please look at this sample for your reference. Sanjay, 1714 A: This tin mask is well made and represents a high-ranking Aztec. These masks have been made for visitors to Mexico for years. As you can see, they are hard to resist. Mexican maskmakers sell thousands every year, most of which are quite different from each other. I wonder if Sanjay can reproduce a metal Bolivian mask. They would be much more difficult. A beautiful example is shown in the second photograph. Masks of this kind were made for the Diablado (Dance of the Devils) that…

  • India & Himalayas

    Rare mask from Indian Himalayas

    Q: This is a Faguli (Fagli) dance mask from Barot, Himachal Pradesh, India. Faguli is celebrated in many places throughout the Indian Himalayas to mark the end of winter and the beginning of spring. The main theme is the victory of good over evil. The man I acquired this mask from said it was made by his great grandfather, so it may be more than 90 years old. Lacking side holes to strap the mask on to wear during the dancing, I asked him how it was worn. He said you could strap cloth or cord through the eye holes and wear it that way. I haven’t attended this festival,…

  • South America

    Wapuri mask from Bolivia

    Q: I was gifted this mask by an eldrly friend a while ago and it has been in the attic ever since. She brought this mask, along with a a few others of similar nature, from Morocco in the 1960s/1970s to the UK. The only thing I could potentially pin this mask to is the Boujloud Festival in Morocco, but cannot find anything else to identify them. They are made form plaster/clay & are big enough to put over an adult head (14in x 8in). It also appears that thread was used to attach components such as eyes and hair. I also have another mask of the same style but…

  • East Asia

    Wuhan has masks also

    Nowadays we think of Wuhan as birthplace of the Coronavirus. It is located in the central part of China and is known for hi-tech and other industries. Not so much for folk art. I searched the internet for masks from Hubei Province and its capital, Wuhan, and only could find this. It shows a carver finishing off a mask for the Nuo opera… or it could be for sale to tourists. Let’s hope we survive this worldwide pandemic. Bob

  • Africa

    Ntomo masks from Mali

    Masks are appealing because of how the look… and what they tell us about a culture. A young woman who majored in psychology wrote this paper in college. I hope you enjoy it. The Bamana are a large and powerful ethnic group in Mali, West Africa. Both Islamic and traditional religious views are entwined in Bamana culture. The political structure is patrimonial, meaning positions are inherited and handed down through the male side of the family. Political leaders also control the group’s religious arrangement. Adulthood is earned through the process of six major initiation societies, collectively called the jow, which are used as both a religious and educational system. Bamana…

  • India & Himalayas

    Contempororary Kali masks from India

    Q: I acquired this mask from a Nepali in India. It is a decorative mask, but very beautiful. I have not encountered another Kali mask like this one. It is hand-carved and hand-painted, and measures roughly 32″ from top to bottom. David, 1710 A: Two years ago (3/26/2018) we posted two traditional Kali masks from the last century. We know that art is beginning to go out of style, but there are still places where masquerade continues to thrive. Many are in India. David has sent a fine example, and I found two others on Google. As folk art continues, notice that it evolves with newer designs and materials. These…

  • Africa

    Gu mask from West Africa

    Q: I bought this mask 7 years ago thru a fundraising auction for a cultural organization in So. Calif. The mask was donated to the auction by a member and was described simply as an African mask. My basic research indicates that it may be from the Baule people of the Ivory Coast and is a Mblo or portrait mask. I don’t think it’s very old, possibly less than 40 years. It measures approx. 21″ high and 8″ wide. Can you tell me if it is in fact a Baule Mblo mask? Thanks for your expertise! Scotty, 1709 A: You are almost right. The Baule and Guro people are located…

  • Misc

    Repros of ancient masks

    Reproductions of old masks that were actually worn in theater performances (or copied by ancient Romans over 2000 years ago) are available for very little cost. Different characters, gods and Roman emperors are made by skilled commercial artists around the world. I think that anyone who enjoys this site should have at least one of these affordable sculptures on a wall in their home. My good friend, who is a retired classics professor, believes the two masks shown here are poor reproductions. I think they are still quite decorative, but if you are a classics scholar, search more carefully than I did. C