• This photograph taken on March 24, 2022 shows a "Ngil" mask of the Fang people of Gabon ahead of its auction in March 2022. Photo by Pascal Guyot/AFP via Getty Images
    Africa,  Collecting,  Discover & Learn

    Elderly Duo Discover Their ‘Garage Sale’ African Mask Was a $4.4 Million Jackpot! Now, They Want Their Fair Share!

    Well, folks, here’s a lesson on why garage sales might need more scrutiny! A French grandma, 81, and grandpa, 88, found an old African mask while tidying up their holiday house. They sold it to a local antique dealer for a mere $157, thinking it was just another trinket. Imagine their surprise when they spotted their ‘trinket’ in the news, auctioned off for a whopping $4.4 million! The mask wasn’t just any mask; it was a rare Fang mask with a backstory straight from an adventure novel. Grandpa’s grandpa, who had been a colonial governor in Africa in the early 20th century, brought it home from Gabon. This mask had…

  • Africa,  Collecting,  Discover & Learn

    Why You Probably Shouldn’t Buy That African Mask (But We Know You Will Anyway)

    Oh, so you’ve caught the exotic decor bug, have you? Before you splurge on that “authentic” African mask to add a dash of je ne sais quoi to your living room, let’s talk about the few (or many) reasons why that might not be your best idea. 1. The Historical Baggage First off, let’s be clear: African masks aren’t just fancy wall decorations. Each mask carries the weight of history, culture, and ritual significance. By buying one without understanding its origins, you’re essentially telling your guests, “I have a deep appreciation for beautiful things I know nothing about. 2. Reproduction Galore! Authenticity? More like au-thent-ish. Thanks to the global demand…

  • Africa,  Oceania,  Unknown

    Oceanic Mask?

    Q: Daniela ask: Unfortunately I don’t know anything about the mask. We bought it from somebody in Czech.                                                                                                                        

  • Africa

    Northern Rhodesia Mask (now Zambia)

    Q: My mother ordered this mask from a collector in Northern Rhodesia in 1949. (now Zambia). There is a letter from him and a note in the back mentioning a tribe which I cannot read clearly. Maroshe? Mashona is the only tribe I could find close to that spelling. It is made of very dense, dark wood and there was at one time hair attached as topnotch and beard? It may have suffered from the many moves of a Navy family over the years, or it may have come like this.

  • Africa

    Pende African buffalo mask

    There are several Pende masks on MasksoftheWorld.com. This is the most famous one. It is extremely wide. With big, dramatic eyes on an abstracted design that is perfectly symmetrical. You will never forget it. This is the kind of African art that stunned Europe in the 1800’s. Sharing both a masquerade and an architectural function, the panya ngombe mask of the Eastern or Kasai Pende signifies a wild buffalo, yet in performance it is the mask that collects offerings at the end of initiation festivities. Versions of this mask known as kenene decorate the lintel on a paramount chief’s dwelling.

  • Africa

    Typical African masks bought by beginners

    Q:  I fell in love with masks (especially from Africa) after travelling through South Africa. Then I started to buy and collect some. This is my very first mask, which I bought at an auction. I have no idea which country or region it belongs to, or if it could be something authentic or not. Maybe you have an answer for me.  Best regards, Katja  1820 A:  There are many wood carvers in Africa because it is so hard to find descent paying jobs. Every year those people make hundreds of thousands of tribal masks and other carvings for tourists and collectors. Sometimes the masks are as good as the…

  • Africa

    Authentic African Ekpo mask?

    Most of the African masks you see on the market today are quickly-made fakes. They always look old and worn. Some are carefully-made reproductions which can be very convincing. Marketing masks is a huge business in Africa. If you’re like me, you want your African mask collection to be authentic. The problem is that I would have to pay at least a few thousand dollars each. But I started about 50 years ago, so I have a few. I have another way of getting an authentic African masks. Search for masks that look like no Caucasian tourist or collector would want them. Pictured here is probably an old and well…

  • Africa

    Pende pumbu mask

    This cap mask  comes from the Central Pende people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Said to be from the mid to late 20th century art, it is part of the Krannert Art Museum’s collection. It is unusual. For comparison I’m attaching two familiar Pende masks– the black and white sickness mask, and the wonderful bull buffalo. Masquerading enjoyed an extraordinary resurgence in the Central Pende region in the early twentieth century, in part because so many other routes to male prestige had been blocked. In the 1930s, during the Pende rebellion, masquerade performance constituted a form of resistance to Belgian colonial rule. Pende masquerade performance remains vital to…

  • Africa

    Masquerade during the pandemic

    I found this beautiful photo on Google with the following copy: African men and women wearing protective face masks decorated in brightly colored acrylic yarn are the subject of a new collaboration between Pierre Le Riche, who created the masks in Cape Town, and photographer Nonzuzo Gxekwa, who photographed them in Johannesburg. Entitled The Mask Project, the series is being added to the exhibition at THK Gallery, Cape Town, which continues until 29 August. Cases of Covid-19 in South Africa have been increasing by more than 10,000 per day, with the total fast approaching 500,000. The artists say the models were photographed bare-skinned to emphasize our myriad vulnerabilities during the pandemic. ‘I do…

  • Africa

    Interesting Dan gle mask

    Q:  I found this little passport Dan mask in a flea market for a bargain price. What made me interested was just the rear, which looked older. It was only 20 cm long, more or less.  Can you please give me your opinion?  Monica, 1803 A:  Of course, this is some sort of Dan mask. It has several interesting features. There are two pairs of extra holes for fastening it to a belt or a body part. The carving does not appear to have been done with modern steel tools. And, as Monica points out, the rear looks authentically old. There are perhaps more Dan masks than any other kind.…