Don’t be afraid of African masks

This is one of my favorite African masks. It is a Ngil from Gabon or Cameroon, wood colored with kaolin, by the Fang people, and from the Ethnological Museum of Berlin, Germany. Worn with full costume in a night masquerade to settle disputes
and quell misbehavior, it is a sight to behold.

African masks are the largest category of masks and the most popular. But many people
worry about their authenticity. This has always been a problem. Today I googled
“authentic African masks” and found that about 95% ranged from cheap tourist fakes to
well made reproductions.

African masks are often sold for more than their true value. But we must accept
the fact that thousands of poor Africans, for many generations,
have been making their living carving and selling these objects. They want
to make a descent living.

Learn more about African masks. Then try to buy only those that look traditional
and well made without paying too much for them. But understanding what traditional masks look like takes a little work. I would suggest you start the old fashioned way by going to collectors, dealers, libraries or museums. After this introduction you can use the internet where you will see more masks
and learn what they sell for.

This website can also help a little with our A-B-C-D value system. “A” is for
authentic artifacts that wealthy collectors and museums can afford. “B” means
collectible. This includes new masks that could be used and carefully made reproductions.
“C” is for decorative art that deviates from tradition. “D” is the stuff we see for sale
in foreign markets, thrift shops, eBay and many other places. Often they are made
to look old and used. Most of the masks sent to me, but not posted on,
fall into this last category.

Another thing you can do is quickly send three hi-res scans of any mask you want
to purchase to I’ll try to get back you the same day with some
helpful information… at no charge.

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