• Africa

    The problem with African masks

    Q: This mask was recently bought online. I know very little about it, except that it was exhibited at the Allied Arts Association in Richland, Washington in 1953, with an exhibition label on the back. It certainly seems to have age. It is made of a soft and light wood. The chin is rounded as if it was often held on the chin. I would love to know more. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Ryan, 1657 A: If you want to use this impressive 16-inch carving as a decor item, hang it on the wall and tell folks that it looks like an over-sized Dan mask from West Africa…

  • Africa

    Kwele mask from Gabon

    Q: Please help me to get more information of this mask that I bought in Africa. I want to know it’s origin and it’s value. Adalberto, 1655 A: Despite its appearance this Kwele mask was probably made to be sold. Kwele masks (also called a Pibibuze) are used by the Bwete association, which maintains social order, and were primarily seen at funerals. They are also used in ceremonies to promote well-being and community. In recent years, some do not have eye slits and are shown to onlookers rather than worn at dance ceremonies. The masks are considered to be among the most beautiful in African art when they have not…

  • Africa

    Batshioko mask from Zambia

    Q: My mother was an artist who created masks in some of her work. She had some interesting masks which she collected for design inspiration. This one is the most unusual. I’d be interested to know where it is from. Linda, 1648 A: We don’t see these very often. I’m going to assume it’s bark cloth stretched over a frame of bent twigs about 15 inches in height. Probably authentic and about 50 years old. B

  • Africa

    Mystery Kuba mask from Central Africa

    Q: I may have a mystery mask for you. The attached was labeled as a Kuba M’boom mask. It may be Kuba, but I doubt it’s a M’boom. I guess it’s possible. The front is partially covered in copper sheet. Do you have any notion what kind of mask it is? Aaron, 1644 A: The only thing that strongly suggests it might be a Kuba M’boom is the forehead area. There is also the possibility of your mask coming from other tribes in the central Congo (DRC) region such as the Lele, Bushoong, Ngeende, and some others. I know, that’s not much help. So let’s hope that sone of our…

  • Africa

    Pwoom Itok mask of the Kuba

    Q: I am just trying to find out actual provenance and the type of mask this was used for, beyond era. I think it looks like a West African mask. Penny, 1643 A: It’s too late for you to get any provenance. But I can tell that it probably comes from the Kuba people of the Democratic Republic of Congo, West Africa. This particular style of masks is used in various ceremonies for young men. The Kuba do not formally worship the creator god. At one time the Kuba had a religion based on ancestor worship, but this seems to have died out, although divination is still practiced in order…

  • Africa

    Dan runner mask from West Africa

    Q: Hi, this is Marc from the Netherlands. I recently bought this Dan runner mask at a local auction house for 200 eur. No provenance. Size 23x13x7cm. It has a small crack. Very nice shiny patina, looks quite authentic too me. But what does the expert say? Marc, 1638 A: Like most true experts, I know my limitations… especially when asked to authenticate an African mask over the internet. Some of the carvers who specialize in fine reproductions can fool museum curators! Braking all the rules, I will courageously declare this Dan runner mask to be authentic. Look at all three pictures and blow them up as much as you…

  • Africa

    Bamana Ntomo mask from Mali

    Q: I was given this mask as a gift from a friend with quite a bit of African masks. I’d like to know it’s value. I do not collect them but the giver does, and he has a large collection. Most were given to him from patients, mainly from Africa. I have more pictures if needed. Thank you. Michelle, 1635 A: Instead of featuring your mask, I put it in second place. The big photo is from a blog I posted more than two years ago. This mask certainly looks like an authentic Ntomo, but it could be a carefully made reproduction. If the latter, it will still be a…

  • Africa

    Large Baga Nimba shoulder mask

    Q: I have a baga nimba mask (full size) and paperwork for it. It came from a prominent tribal collector in Boston. I am curious as to what you believe it would be valued around or if a market for this exists. Here are photos of the mask. Let me know your thoughts. Adam, 1634 A: The most important of the Baga art forms is the great mask, or Nimba. It represents the mother of fertility, protector of pregnant women, and presides over all agricultural ceremonies. The dancer, wearing a full raffia costume, carries the mask on his shoulders, looking out through holes between the breasts. In use, such masks…

  • Africa

    Early Kuba mask with provenance

    Q: Hello from Belgium. Here is one of my favorites from my collection of masks of the world. It is 19th century and a part of the objects brought back from Congo during the 1st Belgian expedition organized by the CCI (Compagnie pour le Commerce et l’Industrie) to Katanga 1891-1893 and led by Alexandre Delcommune. This is the first Royal Kuba masks, Ngaady a Mwaash, known to be brought in Belgium in 1893 and probably the only known to date to have the nape covered with commercial fabric that was a royal exclusive Kuba privilege before the submission of the Kuba Kingdom in 1904. It comes from the estate of…

  • Africa

    Baule portrait mask from Ivory Coast

    Q: Picked this up at an auction. There is some damage on the top, but I don’t know what caused it. Wondering how old this is and where it is from? Despite the damage, is it still collectible? Pat, 1628 A: You have found an attractive mask and asked some good questions. Damage like this doesn’t lower its value… but being a reproduction does. To the average collector this is good news because an old and used piece would cost so much more. It was probably made recently, but age is of little concern for a reproduction. What you have is collectible. The Baule are one of the Akan peoples.…