Okukwe mask, Galoa people, Gabon

Q: I am wondering if you may be able to tell me a little bit about this mask and it’s origin. Particularly if you believe it is an inuit mask. It is hand carved and made of a heady thick wood. It is a little larger than the size of my face. The white on the face appears dirty in the photos but it is simply aged. Any assistance would be appreciated. Lindy, 1660

A: This is a tourist mask made somewhere in West Africa. Most of the carvers there are experts in artificial aging because it helps them get more money for their products. Now let me say something positive about this decorative piece.

It is supposed to look like a Galoa mask from Gabon. I’m giving it a higher value because it would be a handsome addition to any beginner’s collection of African art. Though it may look like a design of the nearby Fang people, it is a perfect reproduction of a mask from a much smaller ethnic group. The Galoa people would use this type for celebration at funerals. There aren’t many of them around– authentic or repros. B-

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