India & Himalayas

Some Himalayan masks are blackened by smoke


Q: Just wanted to know about what type of mask it is and just about it in general. It is 26 length 19 width 9 depth cm.  Jo, 603

A: This is a demon mask from the Monpa people of Bhutan or Arunachal Pradesh, which is in the Himalayan region.

Masquerade plays an important part in the Buddhism of this area. Masks from the Himalayas are now quite popular with collectors so you might want to consult a specialist as to the age and authenticity.  B


  • GIROLAMI Jean-Pierre


    Sorry if I disappoint you , this mask is just pure handicraft with no collection value , even if it has been bought 20 years ago , absolutely no doubt it is a new one just made for tourist, it is ok if you like it and did not pay an expensive price


  • Bob Ibold

    Thanks for responding. It’s often difficult for me to determine the authenticity of masks. The making of old-used-looking masks for the tourist and collector market has become an important trade for many people around the world. Hoping to avoid their products, some collectors and museums want to know that a mask was used for a particular ceremony, place and time. For me the most important thing is quality. If a mask looks like a fine work of folk art, I’ll pay a fair price.

  • leon

    More and more it is in fashion to call such shaman masks Himalayan, could be from Luzon through Borneo, Nagaland to Bhutan ?? I think it is a small amulet shaman mask from Borneo
    and yes it is really hard to tell if it is old. I hope the knowledge will overcome the dollarsigns of it’s trade.

    grtz Leon or Madrason

    • Bob Ibold

      Thanks for your comment. I am not an expert on masks from the Himalayas or most other areas of the world. The best I can do is encourage more research when I think it might be important to do so, and I also try to promote interest in quality pieces as opposed to tourist junk.
      Would you mind talking about Luzon. Is there a big mask-making industry there?

  • dorji namgyel

    I would like to know why Arunachal and Eastern Bhutan are always mixed together when it comes to the tribal mask. It would be helpful if someone can differentiate the regional masks.
    dorji namgyel

  • another bob

    For sure this is a recent fantasy creation for tourists that has no function in reality except as decorative “art”.

    Dorji’s point is well taken. Regarding so called “tribal” Himalayan masks, this is somewhat of a misnomer to begin with since the ethnographic groups would frown on a description of themselves as “tribals”. Unfortunately that is how they have been described by the West.

    For the most part masks from Arunachal Pradesh and/or Bhutan would normally be Buddhist characters used in traditional Cham presentations.

    There are many confusing and misunderstood references to the animistic (ie: “tribal”) masks from the Himalaya. Frequently by entrepreneurs who attempt to sell material they have only a superficial knowledge about.

  • charles novak

    In brief, this is a cheap, Rai mask probably from Dhankuta in E. Nepal or could have been made in Thimi which is in the Kathmandu Valley.

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