Authentic or reproduction

aaaMystrySolvd-959Q:  Hi Bob! I was looking at this mask on the net and the seller says it appears ritually used. Do you think it’s as claimed from viewing it?  J., 959

A:  Here is what the copy says… This is an outstanding ethnographic spiritual relic imported from the Igbo tribe of Nigeria. It’s an otherworldly old ritual mask made from carved wood. It features 4 horn-like protrusions from the top of the head and a rather startling facial expression. An old cloth hangs down the back of the neck to completely conceal the identity of the wearer. This is an older, used relic with signs of ritual wear as you can see in the photos. I estimate it to be at least 70 years of age. It measures approximately 22″ in height.

It’s a collectible mask, but the seller insists it is a 70-year-old, ritually-used relic. I doubt if this is true. I would call the Igbo mask an interesting reproduction that has been well antiqued, possibly made outside of Southern Nigeria. It might make a good addition to a beginners collection, but I would suggest paying less. Please remember that almost all African masks available on the internet are reproductions. Carving wood masks and figures for sale to tourists and collectors has been an important occupation for many generations in Africa. These “old” carvings have little or no color on them and have been skillfully antiqued. Africans know that colorful, authentic masks and costumes don’t sell well. C

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