A rough old African


Q:  I have this mask and would like to know it’s origin. I hope you can help. Thank you, Vera, 615

A:  The mask is from West Africa. I know this because of the construction and the weave of the fabric. But the carving is so rough I can not see the connection to any particular culture. These kinds of very primitive, old masks with caps and some covering have been showing up frequently in recent years. I think they are being made for the tourist market. And certainly for less time and material it would take to reproduce something from the Barbier-Mueller Collection. Let’s hope that someone more experienced with African artifacts will prove me wrong. Do you mind sharing with us where you got it and how much you paid?  C


  • Vera Tamen

    Hi, thank you for your feedback. We got this mask at an auction for 47 dollars. The construction is very intriguing, and the mask is partially made of dirt. From its condition, we believe its very old. We had some more people do a quick research, and we found out that it could be an old “Katoyo” mask, which represented the “white man” in certain ceremonies. Actually, we found some old photos that had some masks that look exactly alike. We doubt it could be made for tourists due to its condition, and the materials used in its construction.

    We could be wrong though, but it’s intriguing never the less.

    • Bob Ibold

      I’m relieved you paid only $47. From what culture does the Katoyo mask come and how is it used? If your friends can’t tell you I would suggest you contact the African_Arts group at Yahoo. Some of those guys know a lot about African arts and culture. And please share the results with us. We would love to learn about the Katoyo.

  • leon

    I think it is a pende mask from central Congo.
    The fiber around is makes me say this, the diagonal mouth shows
    an illness or failure at birth, but is meant to be clownish.
    I believe this type of mask group has a bout 40 different
    characters. Some are beautifully divided vertically in left white and right no paint the color of wood. Correct me if i am wrong but the muddy patine and its rough cut could have me confused! Leon or Madrason

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

I accept the Privacy Policy