Bamana Ntomo mask from Mali

Q: I was given this mask as a gift from a friend with quite a bit of African masks. I’d like to know it’s value. I do not collect them but the giver does, and he has a large collection. Most were given to him from patients, mainly from Africa. I have more pictures if needed. Thank you. Michelle, 1635

A: Instead of featuring your mask, I put it in second place. The big photo is from a blog I posted more than two years ago. This mask certainly looks like an authentic Ntomo, but it could be a carefully made reproduction. If the latter, it will still be a nice addition to most collector’s West African section. And you could find one for a few hundred dollars or less.

The giver of your present got rid of a decorative reproduction that I would give a C. We all have to remember that selling wood carvings to tourists and exporters is a nice way to make a decent living in African. Sometimes masks are quickly made and don’t look like the real thing at all. But they almost always are antiqued to look old a used. Most of those get a D.

May I suggest that Masks of the World by Ibold & Yohn, with an African chapter that contains 130 photos and descriptions, is a great reference book for anyone wishing to start a collection. (Yes, we make some money that way.)

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