• Africa

    3 Guro antelope masks from West Africa

    The Guro are a large ethnic group in Ivory Coast. They are known for the decorative masks they sell to tourists and export to the entire world. These impressive examples of tribal art are not authentic, but I admire their beauty. You can find plenty of them on the internet. Here are three used Guro antelope masks that would be prized by serious collectors. They look different from each other, and not much like the tourist masks. I think this may be because of age, the first being most recent and the last maybe 75 years old. The middle one has a jet plane painted on it.  I’m pleased to…

  • Africa

    Value of tribal masks from high to low

    Q: My opinion is that the masks field can be subdivided in 4 parts, considering two criteria “use” and “age”: As far as the ethnographic interest is concerned, the criterion “use” seems the most important to me, whatever old or recent. The criterion “age” intervenes mainly in the determination of the commercial value of the mask. – Old and used : the best, but certainly the most difficult to find today, and the most expensive – Old and not (or scarcely) used: unfrequented situation (the mask that has spent years in collections) – Recent and used : those used today in dances or dramas – Recent and not used :…

  • Africa

    African mask that change the art world

    You are looking at the famous Fang Nigil mask. Typically they are large, elongated masks covered with kaolin and featuring a face that was usually heart-shaped with a long, fine nose. This is one of the many African masks collected by European explorers in the 19th century. When the great modern artist of France first saw these amazing wood sculptures their concepts changed dramatically. Many contemporary artist, especially in the West, art still big admirers of African traditional art. The Ngil is my favorite! The Fang people used masks in their secret societies. Members of this male society wore the Ngil masks during the initiation of new members and the…

  • Africa

    Tourist mask… from Africa or Asia?

    Q:  I am sincerely hoping you can help solve a 25 year mystery. When I picked up this mask in a junk shop in Yorkshire for £5 the shop owner ‘wanted it out’. In all those years I have searched until I have gone mask blind and never found anything similar. Could you please shed some light on it’s origins, is it ritualistic? It is finely carved, yet the pentagram on the forehead looks crude and possibly added later. Could it have had a stick at the bottom to hold over the face? The only fastening marks are where I removed vintage electrical wire used for hanging. I love it…

  • Africa

    Contemporary African masks are rejected.

    Mende Ode-Lay mask from Sierra Leone, Bobo butterfly mask from Burkina Faso, and the Dogon traditional mask from Mali were all used in the 21st century. They are truly authentic, and well made. I believe all three should be in collections, or famous museum with displays of African art. African traditional art has always evolved. Today masks are made with steel tools, painted with bright enamel, and often decorated with store-bought materials. Right now you can buy them for a very reasonable price. Almost all of the masks, as well as other carvings, put on the market today are supposed to look old and used. They are neither. What you…

  • Africa

    Is masquerade still alive in Africa?

    Yes. Though painted with store-bought colors, some of the masks used today do not look much different than those from a 100 years ago. Others, like the five I’m showing today, are different. African folk art is changing just like so many other things. After all, the continent has experienced colonization, Christianity, Islam and urbanization. These are being used now in there respective cultures. They are not meant to be sold as collectibles for white people. We call them modern traditional art and they are hard to find on the internet or anywhere else. Most of what we see for sale today are poorly carved masks that try to look…

  • Africa

    Water spirit mask from Niger delta

    Yoruba-Ijebu mask (24 inches long) for the Ekine cult, depicting the water spirit Igodo from the Wests African country of Nigeria was sold at  Sotheby’s. I believe these people are also referred to as Ijaw.  The Niger river dominates their region. The mask is often worn on the top of the head of a man walking in deep water. Then all you can see is this strange creature gliding across the river. I’ll bet you would like one of these on your wall. Don’t worry– you can sometimes find affordable reproductions on the internet. A Nigerian water spirit is a must for any African mask collection. This mask is a…

  • Africa

    Reproductions of African masks can be collectible

    Q:  I own a what I believe is a Dan mask which has been in the family for quite some time now. It has been much appreciated but now in search of a new home. Was wondering if you could tell me some things about the mask.   Dagomar, 1449 A:  Thanks for the excellent photos. Your Dan is the deangle type, with the familiar slit eye holes and vertical ridge on the bulging forehead. It is considered by the Dan to be very feminine. Even though it is a reproduction that could have been carved someplace other than Liberia or the Ivory Coast, it makes a great impression with it’s…

  • Africa

    Baule mask from West Africa

    The Baule were a tribe that originated in the present day Ivory Coast area in Africa many years ago.  The Baule assimilated a number of their neighbors’ masquerade forms: a naturalistic face mask, a horned helmet mask, and a flat circular mask called kple kple. The last of these, a male mask of junior rank, is one of several paired works that would perform sequentially in Goli society entertainments or funerals. It impersonates an unruly nature spirit that is considered to be both frightening and amusing. The flat, disk-shaped face with ringed eyes and rectangular mouth is surmounted by ears and large curving horns. The bold red coloring has contrasting…

  • Africa

    Complex African traditional art

    The character represented in this mask, Banda (also called Kumbaruba by some Baga groups), is a complex composite of human and animal forms. The long horizontal headdress is composed of the face of a human being and the jaw of a crocodile, whose angular teeth are visible along the side of the mask. The human face is characterized by Baga scarification marks as well as a woman’s elaborately braided coiffure. The top of the headdress features the horns of an antelope, the body of a serpent, and the tail of a chameleon. Banda headdresses are quite large; this example measures just over four feet in length. Yet despite their unwieldy…