• Misc

    Masks as art

    Q: Thought you might like to see this steel mask which I made some years ago. The steel came from an area that had been subjected to a cluster bomb attack. In this case the mask doesn’t protect: rather it shows the fragility of the wearer. Steve, 1692 A: I’ve always had some interest in cultural anthropology, but I was drawn to mask collecting mainly because they combine the two most important art forms: sculpture and painting. Your piece would be called wall sculpture because it is way more than just decorative art. It is fine art, and it also has meaning. Many of the masks shown on this site…

  • Misc

    Bryan Stevens, 1944-2020

    It was about 40 years ago that I bought my first mask (Mexican) at a flea market. A few years later I met Bryan who lived in the neighboring town of York, PA, and he really got me excited about collecting. Though he was a psychiatrist by profession, he curated one of the most important Mexican mask collections in the world. He was always generous with his time and taught me a great deal about the folk art and anthropology of Mexico. He was also kind enough to write the preface to “Masks of the World,” a book written by me and Troy Yohn in 2015. I will greatly miss…

  • Guatemala,  Misc

    Authentic new Guatemalan masks

    Q: Attached are two views of mask made by Moises Lopez, Tactic, Guatemala, and one of his unfinished masks. I like unfinished mask and will purchase them if I can convince the mask maker to give one up before it is painted. I also have some masks that were purchased in Ecuador, Peru, Guatemala, and most are from Mexico. Some are gifts, some bought from make, some are tourist, some not. Janet Brody Esser confirmed Michoacan masks, but no estimate of value. What would it cost to appraise them? Jeri, 1686 A: The book “Masks of the World” describes in detail how authenticity affects the value of masks. Most valuable…

  • Misc

    Help needed for fine mystery mask

    Q: I recently bought this mask. Its about 20 cm tall. Looks real old and used but I don’t know where its from or from witch culture it is?. I bought it at an auction and paid 400 euro for it. Niek, 1659 A: Niek is a collector of PNG masks. I think he can tell what pre-contact usage looks like. This mask was carved with bones, shells or stone fragments… not a steel tool. But after a long search I have found nothing. Certainly 400 euros will be a great bargain if we can identify it. Please try to help us! Niek will be so appreciative. A?

  • Misc

    Tourist masks

    Q: I just received this mask as a gift. I was told it came from a collector in Canada, but it looks African to me. Rick, 1650 A: Many of the people who write to the Mask Man have been given a mask, found one, or bought an “old one” cheap. They are usually hoping it will be worth something. I have to disappoint them, hopefully, in a nice way. It would be better the next time if they bought tribal art for beauty rather than value. Other visitors to MasksoftheWorld are collectors and would probably not be interested in today’s blog. Rick has a mask that doesn’t resemble the…

  • Misc

    Rare animal mask from Panama

    Q: Would you know more about this straw mask. It reminds me of an African dog mask. Very comfortable to wear. Not sure if it represents a zebra or a monkey. Looking forward to your answer. Paule, 1649 A: I would say this mask was made by Indians from the forests of Panama, possibly the Embera or the Wounaan people. Both tribes often weave animal masks out of the same natural materials they use for baskets. I wish I could tell you what kind of animal it is. Maybe it is some kind of monkey. I hope you keep this rare mask and do some serious research. B+

  • Misc

    MASK by Chris Ranier

    I saw some of the beautiful pictures in this new book. Here is one of a Buddhist deer masks from the Mustang Region of Nepal. Sorry, my scan doesn’t do it justice. Check out more of them on the internet and see what you think. Here is what Amazon had to say about the book… MASK presents a striking collection of rare masks steeped in ancient tradition, captured through the lens of one of the world’s most celebrated documentary photographers. Chris Rainier has documented indigenous and endangered cultures worldwide. What began as a focus on the masks of New Guinea—where modernity threatened to erase ancient rituals and cultures—became an expansive…

  • Misc

    Deer Skull Masks Made 11,000 Years Ago

    Over 11,000 years ago, people in Star Carr were carving eyeholes into the crania of dead deer, presumably using the stone tools found at the northern Yorkshire site. As of Thursday, three of the 33 evocative headdresses made by the Mesolithic-era hunter-gatherers out of deer skulls, and other miraculously preserved artifacts, are on display at Cambridge University’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Ordinarily, all that latter-day archaeologists find from the distant past are stone and pottery artifacts that don’t suffer decay. There are exceptions, such as peat bogs in which the oxygen-breathing bacteria of rot cannot live. In Yorkshire, northern England, the waterlogged ground at Star Carr almost miraculously preserved…

  • Indonesia,  Misc

    Another mask I need help with

    Q: I got this at an antique shop a few days back. At first I thought he was just an old souvenir tchotchke because there aren’t any holes in the side to keep this mask on someone’s head, instead there are four punctures in the back that look like they are for mounting. There is a dark, smooth looking stain in the wood just above the nostrils in back. The stain appears right where a person’s breath would hit if they actually wore this mask. Maybe someone wore it for something? Conceivably those four parallel punctures could have been for a head strap… Also, the mask was repaired at one…

  • Misc

    Muslim masks

    I’m starting with a Marka mask from Mali, a country that is almost entirely Muslim. The second photo is a niqab, something you would expect to see in a Muslim country. Many African countries have a rich tradition of crafted masks. During the seventh century and the beginning of Islam, Muslims migrated to North Africa. They also pushed into territories further south that eventually became the Republic of Sudan, Chad, Niger, Mali, and several others. We know that the Islamic religion has always discouraged masquerade. But many of these African cultures had ancient artistic traditions in mask-making for indigenous celebrations. They made masks that represented spirits and gods. In their…