• Africa

    Pair of Chi Waras from Mali

      This Bamana Chi Wara headdress features a pair of antelope carvings. On March 8th of this year we posted a male version. Now you can see the male and female versions together. This is a high-res photo so blow it up to see the details. A pair of Chi Waras is (arguably) the greatest example of African traditional sculpture. Can you think of anything better? “While there are several versions of this sculpture, the discovery of agriculture is credited to the hero Chi Wara, a half antelope, half human figure born from the union of the sky goddess Mousso Koroni and an earth spirit in the shape of a…

  • East Asia,  India & Himalayas

    Old mask from India or Thailand?

    Q:  This mask has just been restored. It had suffered serious damage in storage. I would be interested to know its origin and its age. The conservator believes it is probably 17/18th century from Thailand, repainted red in the 19th century to bring it “up to date” with the craze for Indian artifacts at that time.   John,  1478 A:  The restoration expert did a good job and could be right about age and location. Please tell me who she/he is. Occasionally I’m asked for a recommendation. The mask is Hindu, but I can’t name the character or god. Also, it may be from India or Nepal… and the age is…

  • Misc

    Korean traditional character mask

    Q:  The mask is roughly 28 by 20 cm. It is wooden and has a black cloth covering and ties at the back. I think it is of Korean origin, but unsure if it’s an  artistic/religious mask or if it depicts a particular character.   Maddie,  1477 A:  Sorry to take so long. I’ve had some problems that took a week to fix. Your red mask is one of the characters in the Yangju Pyeolsandae Nori, the most popular folk dance in all of Korea. There are over 20 other actors in the dance. Many Korean masks are designated as national cultural properties. Yours is no exception and would have been…

  • Africa

    Mossi Plank Mask from Africa

    A wonderful Mossi Yatenga style plank mask from Burkina Faso, this tall, thin mask consists of a white mask, black and brown square mask that matches the length of the horns carved to resemble those of a gazelle and a plank that is covered in black and white pigment. The tall, vertically oriented, plank masks are used by the Mossi in the traditional state of Yatenga have, for decades, been considered the epitome of Mossi sculptural traditions. Masks are owned by a clan descent from the same ancestor and are used in various ceremonies, including initiations, funerals, and annual year-end sacrifices. The masks represent the spirits of familiar animals and…

  • Misc

    Should you buy this mask?

    This is called an Agbogho mmuuo from the Ashanti people of  Ghana, West Africa. Sometimes the sellers of these round carvings will tell you more about their derivation, which goes like this…  “Translating into the Queen of women, this mask represents a wealthy woman of high status.  She personifies strength, beauty, and pride.  It is typically worn during performances at funerals and other ceremonies.  Seeking to illustrate maiden spirits, men dress up in these masks and parade as adolescent girls to exaggerate their features.  Shows including the mimickers are also joined by musicians who chat ‘Mmanwu si n’igwe’ – meaning the masked spirit from the sky and ‘Udemu na lenu’ –…

  • Mexico

    Authentic Mexican masks, fakes & decoratives

    The first mask is called a Parachico and is an authentic Mexican dance mask in the collection of Bryan Stevens who has www.mexicandancemasks.com. Here’s what he has written. “The Parachicos dance is most famously performed in the town of Chiapa de Corzo in the Mexican state of Chiapas. It is said to honor three Catholic saints—Saint Anthony, Our Lord of Esquipulas, and Saint Sabastian. The costumed dancers wear wooden masks with bearded Caucasian faces, they carry handmade tin maracas that are painted silver, and on their heads are headdresses made of woven ixtle (or istle), a fiber obtained from the agave or yucca plant. Their headdresses are decorated with colored…

  • Bali & Java

    Primitive tribal masks from Java

    There are Buddhist-Hindu people farming in the mountains of central and eastern Java that celebrate the classic Topeng dance dramas.  Being in remote areas and without much money, they have learned to make their own character masks. They can be crude and rough, but at the same time, very creative. The colorful one is in poor condition and the the black one with hair has big mirrored eyes. Let me know if you like or dislike these strange Indonesian masks.

  • Africa

    How do I find a mask expert?

    MasksoftheWorld.com is a good place to start. We know something about masquerade all over each of the world’s continents. We also include masks for Halloween, protection, protest, fetishes and more. We deal with everything that goes on the face that is dry rather than viscous. But does that make us experts? No. The real experts specialize in certain continents of the world or specific countries or cultures. These specialists (sometimes called “tribal art dealers”) can tell you way more about a mask than we can… and MOTW does occasionally make mistakes. About 2 weeks ago I confused a water spirit mask from one culture in West Africa with a fire…

  • Africa

    Why have a mask appraised?

    This mask is a Baule Mblo and it comes from Ivory Coast in West Africa. It is obviously of good quality, but is it authentic or a carefully-made reproduction? You can learn more about Baule masks by going to “Africa” in our archive section. Full disclosure, I do mask appraisals, for which I am paid. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, why should you get a mask appraised? Here are some of the reasons people have.    You are pretty sure it is valuable.  How best to sell it?  You want to keep the mask(s) but need to know more.  For what should I insure it?  Is…

  • Misc

    We-Guere Mask from Africa

    Guere Mask from the Ivory Coast can be very frighting. They are worn to terrify their enemy when at war. The Guere share many aspects of culture with the neighboring Dan tribe. They created masks that were used during festivities, funerals, rituals, wars, and that look rather scary and monstrous. The art of Guere people is stylistically connected to the Dan and both groups are often collectively referred to as We, meaning “men who easily forgive.” Like the Dan, the We use a wide variety of masquerades, which hold important regulatory position within their small, egalitarian communities. Masks are owned by families and used by individual lineage members in contexts…