Is it as old as it looks?

Lega Kayamba mask
Lega Kayamba mask

Q:  Please check out this mask. The seller says it is old (I know they always say this). If you want I can send you few more close-ups. Your opinion is very appreciated. Reminds Luba but these horns.. And also the stitches, were they made on purpose so the mask looks old? Or are they real? The mask has 2 holes at sides and 3 holes for the beard. This is Kigali, Rwanda. Thank you.  Sayn, 684

A:  It’s a horned Kayamba mask from the Lega people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is poorly made, very beat up and even has a large, native repair. So I decided to show your photo of the rear instead of the front. If it truly is old and used, it would be desirable to collectors because the Kayamba is rare and most collectors love to see native repairs. But, like you, I am suspicious that this piece was artificially aged extensively in order to coax a higher price. Of course, I can’t be sure with just a photograph to go on. I’ll bet you could find someone in Kigali who could tell you if it is really authentic.


  • Bob Ibold

    Thanks a lot Bob.
    I went back to the market today. I had a strong suspition that repair is certainly must be an imitation. It occurred to me that the crack is aligned with one side of the stitches (not BETWEEN the stitches). I came to the conclusion that there was no crack originally, the crack appeared as a result of doing the stitches.
    Regardless of this I wanted to buy it, as it looks nice 🙂 I bargained and bought it for $30. Which I thinks is a good price. The seller said few times a year he travels to Belgium where he sells masks and statues to his contacts.
    Have a nice day!

  • Chris

    Thanks for sharing with us, valuable comments. From the one small foto I can see another detail which does not fit: the patina on the deep back originating from the face of the wearer cannot be as even an shiny in the deep edges of the face inside as it is on the areas of the eyes, nose and mouth. The side areas would rather show a dusty, colourly aged surface of rough, carved wood, showing other hints of age, as well. I have also an ‘old’ African fake which shows the same even patina – however, on mine they totally forgot to age the wearing holes…nevertheless, it looks great on the wall 😉

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