South America

Tukuna mask from NE Amazon region

Q: I have several masks that we collected while on an expedition in the Amazon during 1970’s. What tribe is this from and is it of any value? I do not collect masks, but I have several that I wish to sell or donate to museum. Sharon, 1626

A: Your mask is the most beautiful “crowned” Tukuna mask I have ever seen. The face is expertly carved, the round ears are cool, and the bark-cloth mantle is handsome. Also, it is still in excellent condition. The first time I saw one was about 40 years ago and I thought that an evangelical missionary probably gave them the idea for a crown. But I don’t know much about Amazon ethnography.

The Tukuna live (or lived) in Brazil very close to the Colombian and Peruvian borders. There are many different tribes in the vast Amazon rain forest. The government of Brazil has been abusing them for years and by now has burned down much of their forest. I hope some museums will preserve the historic artifacts of these disappearing cultures. A+

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