• Africa

    Babanki elephant mask from Cameroon

    Q: I purchased this mask about 11 years ago while on a study abroad trip in South Africa. Specifically, it was purchased in a shop that dealt in mask. I believe the town was just north of Johannesburg. I’m not sure exactly how much I payed but probably in the neighborhood of $100US. The shop included a label on the back stating it origin (Guru tribe of Ivory Coast) and purpose (royal mask- “A symbol of power for the king exclusively”). It also noted the age to be around 80 years. I don’t know how much of this is accurate. The mask is made of wood and measures approximately 31…

  • Africa

    Africa’s greatest mask

    This Benin ivory mask is a sculptural portrait in ivory of Idia, (Queen Mother) of the 16th century Benin Empire. Two almost identical masks are kept at the British Museum in London and at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Both feature a serene face of the Queen Mother wearing a beaded headdress, a beaded choker at her neck, scarification highlighted by iron inlay on the forehead, and all framed by the flange of an openwork tiara and collar of symbolic beings, as well as double loops at each side for attachment of the pendant. There are also examples on the same theme at the Seattle Art…

  • Africa

    Round Teke mask from Africa

    Wikipedia has this to say: The Teke people, or Bateke also known as the Tyo or Tio, are a Bantu Central African ethnic group that speak the Teke languages. Its population is situated mainly in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of the Congo, with a minority in Gabon. The economy of the Teke is mainly based on farming maize, millet and tobacco, but the Teke are also hunters, skilled fishermen and traders. The Teke sometimes chose blacksmiths as chiefs. The blacksmiths were important in the community and this occupation was passed down from father to son. In terms of life of the Teke, the village chief…

  • Africa

    Decorative Mwana Pwo mask

    Q: I stumbled upon your website when I was trying to research this mask. I found in my parents attic. I simply have no information on it, and I’m very curious about its origin, make and purpose. There seems to be iron detail on lips and eyes, as well as a frog shape on the forehead. The “beard” and chin is made of woven string. The rest is carved wood with no makers mark. I’m so curious! If you have any insight or just jumping off points I would greatly appreciate it! Lisa, 1680 A: You can find out plenty of information on the popular Mwana Pwo mask on Google.…

  • Africa

    Male and female Kifwebe masks from Africa

    With the coronavirus still spreading and everything around town closed, lets spend more time on the computer learning about ethnographic masks. Your first website to visit could be Rand African Art. Here is part of what Rand says about a pair of Kifwebe masks in his collection. These two are from the Songye people in the Democratic Republic of Congo. They are differentiated by gender and by their shape and size but also by the basic surface coloration and the decorative design and patterns on the surface. The masks said to represent a female are rarer than masks supposed to depict a male. Normally a band of mask-wearers is made…

  • Africa

    Kota reliquary mask from Gabon

    Q: I am interested in learning more about this Bakota reliquary mask from Gabon. It has two faces like the god Janus. I believe it was made using wood, copper and brass. It measures 16″ H and 6.5″ at its widest. I recently purchased the mask at a NYC thrift store for $45. Thank you for your assistance. Rick, 1676 A: This highly abstract form consists of a wooden sculpture that is almost entirely encased in metalwork. At the center are projecting eyes. In frontal and rear views, the figure’s contours evoke the schematic shape of a leaf with stem. A cylindrical protuberance at the top of the head is…

  • Africa

    Biombo mask from the Congo

    Q: I bought this mask with a label “Kambula, Zaire” at a vintage sales in Antwerp (Belgium) for 70 euro. It’s 38 cm long and 24 cm width. Wim, 1673 A: I’m guessing this is a Biombo mask from the central part of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Kambula is far away in South Africa. This handsome mask is probably a well-made reproduction, but it could be a used artifact. The design is beautiful, especially when viewed from the side. You got a good deal even if it is a repro.

  • Africa

    Special Dan mask from West Africa

    Here is an unusual Dan mask from Liberia in the late 19th-early 20th century and now in one of the Smithsonian museums. It is nicely carved in a slightly different way, and features a white paint treatment that really got my attention. I like this mask a lot! A Coronavirus suggestion: spend more time on your computer and share an interesting mask picture with us. You won’t hurt anyone. 1672

  • Africa

    Bozo puppet headpiece from Mali

    Q: In keeping with the current African theme, I thought you might like to see this large Bozo mask I picked up a few years ago. It’s approx 22″ tall by 14″W. I really liked the bright color and the cartoonish facial expression. I don’t think it’s very old, but it’s very well made, and one of the more interesting Bozo masks I’ve seen online. The following information is from the seller: “This is a fabulous Bozo Puppet that comes from Mali. Bozo Puppets are used by the people of the Bozo tribe of Central Mali to tell the stories of their tribe. The young men’s association is responsible for…

  • Africa

    Guro elephant mask from West Africa

    I sometimes find nice pictures on the internet to share with my viewers. This beautifully carved Guro elephant mask represents the spirit of Gu, the wife of Zamble; a supernatural being. Gu is often depicted as an animal. The Guro revere five: the antelope, the hyena, the leopard, the crocodile and the elephant. These are animals mostly found in the Savannah and tropical forest where the 200,000-strong tribe lives. The Guro people are found in Ivory Coast; their art is closely related to those of their neighbors, the Baule’s. Why don’t you share with our viewers some scans of a mask in your collection? Bob, 1670