East Asia

A little about age

Kapit, Borneo

Q:  This mask was bought on Borneo and is said to be from the Iban on Borneo used for rice-field ceremony. It comes from the Kapit area. I am curious whether it is authentic (indication is that it comes from the 1920’s).  Adam, 680

A:  Simple, primitive masks that look like this can be found in many cultures throughout the world including African, Himalayan, Timorese, Mexican, etc. Fortunately, you know exactly where yours was made.

Authenticity and age are another matter. Signs of continuous usage would indicate both, but often one has to look very closely. Your photos (including the side and back) were clear and sharp but I saw no signs of frequent wear. It may have been made recently for sale to tourists. The dirt, stain, insect damage, scratches and bumps are usually added to recently-made masks intended for sale to make them worth more. So you can’t be sure about this one unless you take it to someone with experience in ethnographic artifacts.


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