Tourist masks can look good

West African souvenir
West African souvenir

Q:  I found this mask in an antique store in South Carolina.  Was curious what it represents. Thanks!  Rosalind, 713

A:  This is a decorative piece of art in the style of a Baule mask from Ivory Coast, West Africa. The real ones are called Ndomas by the Baule, and they are said to portray an honored person of the village who is celebrated during a ceremonial dance known as Mblo. It is an aesthetic performance in which the mask would be worn with a multicolored costume and danced by either the person it represents or a relative. The costume would have been attached to the mask by cords that were threaded through the holes at the back of the mask.

This one isn’t quite right. It could have been made Ivory Coast or somewhere else in West Africa. Most of the time I don’t put tourist pieces on the blog, but this one is very pretty. Masks like this can be fine for wall decoration. But real masks– the ones that are actually worn in native cultures– are often better looking and always more interesting. I suggest that you start exploring the field by looking through the African section here or on other tribal art dealers’ websites. Feel free to ask questions anytime. All of us want you to be part of our favorite hobby and enjoy it to the fullest.  C

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