African bird mask of questionable value

Q: I’m pretty sure this mask is a tourist repro, but would you be able to let me know for sure? Marie, 1763

A: It is definitely a repro. But there is much more we would like to know. Does it come from the Dan or the Baga people? Is it true to the tribe’s traditional designs and markings, or is it a mix of both? If it is the former I would give it a B. Mixes would be in the C range.

This bird mask could have been made in Liberia or the Ivory Coast by the Dan tribe, or one of their near relatives. It probably represents a hornbill. Much of their mythology and social structure is based upon the forest and its creatures. Clan initiates spend up to four months alone in the forest with this mask before they are permitted to enter maturity.

Or the bird could come from the Baga people. The form is also that of a hornbill which is associated with benevolent spirits across several other African cultures. The beak is long and downward facing, and the face is decorated with geometric patterns. The Baga are a small West African ethnic group living in a coastal area of swamps and inland waterways in Guinea bordering the Atlantic Ocean.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

I accept the Privacy Policy