Africa

Babanki elephant mask from Cameroon

Q: I purchased this mask about 11 years ago while on a study abroad trip in South Africa. Specifically, it was purchased in a shop that dealt in mask. I believe the town was just north of Johannesburg. I’m not sure exactly how much I payed but probably in the neighborhood of $100US. The shop included a label on the back stating it origin (Guru tribe of Ivory Coast) and purpose (royal mask- “A symbol of power for the king exclusively”). It also noted the age to be around 80 years. I don’t know how much of this is accurate. The mask is made of wood and measures approximately 31 in. X 10 in.

I collected masks when I was younger and this was the crown jewel of my collection back then. The others were more tourist curios. All kinds of masks interest me but I’m probably most keen about African and Southeast Asian masks. Daniel, 1706

A: I have previously posted a Guru elephant mask on this site. Elephant masks are used in several parts of West Africa, so I decided to feature this beautifully designed and carved Babamli from the far away Western Wetlands of Cameroon. There are others, often painted, that also are very desireable. Daniel’s is the second one. Though it is a cheaply-made souvenir, it is in the Guru tradition… and a nice buy for a beginning collector who doesn’t want to spend much. B-

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