A fine West African pig

Chokwe, West Africa
Chokwe, West Africa

Q: It has (or had) feathers around the top of it, and it has black mesh ‘balls’ around the perimeter of the face. The mesh is stuffed with something, although I don’t know with what. Can you tell me which tribe, area of Africa, and what type mask it is? Also if it would have any value or rarity?  Diane, 550

A: I’ve seen pig masks from several different West African countries, but a good guess is the Chokwe people of Angola. Here is a much different one from MasksoftheWorld’s African section. “18 inches, stained wood. Called Ngulu, the pig mask is danced at initiation ceremonies and represents the domestic pig. The mask is danced in an exaggerated manner along the ground or standing up, imitating the crude behavior of the animal. It makes its appearance at initiation ceremonies and other important celebrations. If this does not look typically Chokwe, remember they are a large cultural group from Southwestern Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola and Zambia, and are made up of many sub-groups with different masking traditions. This mask is covered with reddish pigment.”

I hope this helps a little. “Ask the Mask Man” is limited to only one item and a letter evaluation. This mask would get a B.



  • Diane

    Thank you, Maskman. I’d still like to know the approximate age and if it was used as a true ceremonial mask. As for the “red” pigment? the only red I notice is the old paint (dye?) on the snout. I’m happy for the B grade, although I hope my next one will be an A!

  • Bob Ibold

    How old is difficult to determine. In the tropics an object can age rapidly. Also, there is the possibility of artificial aging which is a common practice with African masks intended for sale. The red pigment is on the other mask I mentioned for comparison. You can see it by going to the African section.

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