• Mexico

    Devil or bird?

    Q: This mask weighs only five ounces. It is around 10-11″ tall and 7″ across the forehead. I acquired it from a long time antique collector/hoarder in Central Alabama. Any assistance you could provide in identification would be most helpful. Kathy, 844 A: From somewhere in Mexico, this strange little guy is quite a character. Unfortunately, it has never been painted. Mexicans like to finish their masks with bright colors. However, they occasionally leave them unpainted for the tourist trade.

  • Africa

    From somewhere in West Africa

    Q: I was wondering what the origins of this particular mask are. A friend of mine acquired it through a house clearance shop but we cannot really tell you anything about where it came from. The hollowed out rear seems to have been burned out, as it is blackened by soot. It is also made of a quite strong smelling wood, possibly to do with age. This specimen is about a foot in total length, from chin to top of the hair. Thank you in advance. Perry, 843 A: This is a black helmet mask that combines many features of various West African cultures.

  • Oceania

    Rough, old Timorese mask

    Q: I acquired this mask on eBay. The seller told me it had been collected from an abandoned hut in East Timor and was circa 1800. That sounded a little romantic to me but it certainly looks very old and has a great character. Does it look Timorese to you? Mark, 842 A: Submitting two Mystery Masks in a row is something I try to avoid, but I must make an exception here.

  • Mexico

    Diablo with lots of character

    Q: Any idea what part of Mexico this Diablo comes from? I got if off eBay where I was told it had been collected in the 1960s or earlier and had been in a collection in Holland ever since. It’s made of hard wood with boar tusks for teeth. Mark, 841 A: Almost anyone will get a kick out of this oddly shaped Devil mask from Mexico. Certainly I do! But exactly where in Mexico was it made and what is it for. To the latter you could say a dance that characterizes Satan. But this delightful character could have been made strictly to sell to tourist and collectors.

  • Mexico

    Typical, old Mexican mask

    Q: Do you agree that this is a Mexican, rather than Guatemalan mask? Nate, 840 A: Of course, there are some masks from nearby Guatemala of similar design, but this design is so typical of many areas in Mexico. It portrays a light-skinned man with black eyebrows and mustache. The holes for seeing and attaching strings, plus the facial characteristics, are also typical.

  • South America,  Unknown

    Strange mask of natural materials

    Q: I found it in a box at a garage sale in Naples, FL.. The lady said it was in her grandfathers garage with a bunch of other “junk”. I payed 5 dollars for it. The feathers feel real the face portion seem to be some type of pod that may have been closed at one point and then opened. The teeth seem real although they look more like animal teeth on the back it looks like a clay way molded so as when the feathers came through the front they would stick in the clay and stay in place when it dried.

  • South America,  Unknown

    Great folk art carving

    Q: The heavy hardwood mask with a star on the forehead is, I was told, an older carnival mask from Trinidad & Tobago. It supposedly represents a policeman (hence the star). I’m not sure all this is accurate, but it does make some sense. I’ve never seen a mask quite like this one before. What do you think? Aaron, 838 A: You have a good eye for quality. I think this is an authentic mask, but like you, I’m not aware of carnival masks from Trinidad & Tobago looking anything like this.

  • Mexico

    The famous Tigre battle helmet

    Q: We happened upon this mask in a yard sale. The tag on the strap says Tigre Guerrero. We know it is a ceremonial mask. What can you tell us about this mask? Where can we find out more? A: This is a famous style of Mexican mask that is only found in Zitlala, Guerrero. There, during the feast day of the Holy Cross all hell brakes loose when the young men from different neighborhoods put on jaguar suits (jaguars are called Tigres in Mexico), top them off with heavy-duty leather helmet masks like what you see here, arm themselves with a big stick and start beating each other up.

  • Africa

    West African mask with coins on her head

    Q: I was given this mask as a birthday gift when I was a young teen. I have no info on it other than 9 coins embedded in rows of 3 on top of the head. The coins seem to be dated in the 1920’s and depict some sort of palm tree? Any help identifying and possible value would be appreciated, as I am 40 yrs old and have always wondered. Benny, 836 We know this mask was made in middle to late 20th century. I also see some resemblance to the work of the Ibo people in Nigeria and the Puno of Gabon. That’s a big chunk of West…

  • Guatemala

    Another great Mystery Mask

    Q: At first glance, I found the front so over dramatized that I assumed it was a tourist piece. Then the cracking/aging paint got my attention that this thing has considerable age. And then finally, I was in shock to see both the amount of patina and craftsmanship of the reverse side.This thing clearly has been danced heavily. The craftsmanship on the back had me initially thinking Japan. However, the tear-drop eyes make me think Korean. This is not a style of an Oni or devil I’ve ever equated to Japan. Ever seen Korean Devils? Can you pin-point this? Nate, 837 A: I don’t where this is from. China, Korea,…