• Africa

    Chokwe Pwo mask of Angola or DRC

    Q:  I’m very excited about this submission! When I bought this mask I was told it is from Mali. The seller claimed it to be as old as 200 years but I have a hard time believing that (the red fabric presents an elastic hinge and I’m quite sure it comes from a modern garment). Besides it  cost me only 100 euros. The face piece is wood, but I can’t tell which kind. It has burlap parts, hay, sea shells, and feathers on top. Could it be a Dogon dance mask? Thank you for any info or opinion you will share!  Gianluca, 1495 A: I’m excited too… but sellers of…

  • Africa

    Why we collect masks

    We collect for two reasons: art and anthropology. Some collectors lean toward one or the other, but it’s the combination of the two that is so enjoyable. Art can be many things. In the case of most masks it is both sculpture and painting. When the artists of Europe in the 19th century first saw masks imported from West Africa, they were stunned. Gradually the style of modern art began to change on both sides of the Atlantic. I love the beauty of tribal masks and that is the first thing I look for. Anthropology is equally important. Exactly in what culture was the mask used or meant to be…

  • Africa

    Punu Mukuyi mask from Gabon

    This white-faced maiden is sometimes mistaken for a character from the Japanese Noh theater. It is from the Musee du quai Branli and is one of the best Punu masks I have ever seen. Think how this highly abstracted sculpture would have shocked European artists in the late 19th century. The Punu were originally part of the Luango kingdom of Angola in the 18th century, and settled in south and southwest Gabon. In the Mukuyi society it represented a female guardian spirit in the funerary rites, initiation of adolescent girls and ancestral cult. At the burial ceremonies of this Punu society the mask represented a female ancestor. This mask has…

  • Africa

    Bobo mask from Burkina Faso

    Q:  I recently received a mask gift from my dad. He picked it up at an antique shop in Michigan that recently acquired a world traveler/collector’s collection. They didn’t have much info on it other than the collector likely picked it up in Africa on one of his trips. From what I’ve found online, it appears to be Bobo tribal mask of a buffalo and bird combo. All signs of wear, age and old smell point to it being authentic. Do you have any thoughts on this one? Value? Much appreciated!   Adam, 1488 A:  You researched this attractive mask well. If it was meant to be a mix of animals, …

  • Africa

    African mask missing its jaw

    Q:   Here are three pictures of a partial mask, as the lower part is missing.  We paid $15 dollars for it, and assume it is a tourist knockoff, but it looks interesting.  Fred, 1487 A:   I like the mask too.  It might even be real. Hard to think they would make a carving for tourists that is missing its reticulated jaw. Masks like this are made by the Dan, Kran and Guere people in Liberia and Ivory Coast. Look it up on Google images and you can learn more. I must now leave for a week-long trip.  B Correction:  I think I was too fast on this one. It…

  • Africa

    Bundu mask for women

    Q:  I recently became interested in a collection of African masks and have brought a few books on the subject. Unfortunately, I’m still pretty lost on dating and evaluating them. I saw few masks at an estate sale and am wondering if you can give me some guidance. The mask I like most is this one. I’m wondering if I should bid on it?  Name withheld, 1486 A:  Bundu masks, created in the 19th and 20th centuries in Sierra Leone, were crafted by men, but worn by women during Sande Society initiation masquerades. These masks represent the importance of women in Mende society, as well as the emphasis on adhering…

  • Africa

    Yaka mask from D R Congo, Central Africa

    Dr. Arthur P. Bourgeois says:  “Among the Nkanu, the initiation of young men to manhood is called Nzo Longo. Within this context, Kisokolo masks are distinguished by the two horns of the coiffure and sometimes an upturned nose. Representing a dancing chief with the reputation of a notorious womanizer, the mask dances with another called Makemba, a sorrowful feminine masquerade figure. The upturned nose of Kisokolo may have had a functional role, as initiates at the closing of nzo longo had to eat a piece of manioc bread and goat’s meat from the nose of the mask. Moreover, the full name of the mask is “Kisokolo kudidi mbumba” (“Kisokolo who…

  • Africa

    Pair of Chi Waras from Mali

      This Bamana Chi Wara headdress features a pair of antelope carvings. On March 8th of this year we posted a male version. Now you can see the male and female versions together. This is a high-res photo so blow it up to see the details. A pair of Chi Waras is (arguably) the greatest example of African traditional sculpture. Can you think of anything better? “While there are several versions of this sculpture, the discovery of agriculture is credited to the hero Chi Wara, a half antelope, half human figure born from the union of the sky goddess Mousso Koroni and an earth spirit in the shape of a…

  • Africa

    Mossi Plank Mask from Africa

    A wonderful Mossi Yatenga style plank mask from Burkina Faso, this tall, thin mask consists of a white mask, black and brown square mask that matches the length of the horns carved to resemble those of a gazelle and a plank that is covered in black and white pigment. The tall, vertically oriented, plank masks are used by the Mossi in the traditional state of Yatenga have, for decades, been considered the epitome of Mossi sculptural traditions. Masks are owned by a clan descent from the same ancestor and are used in various ceremonies, including initiations, funerals, and annual year-end sacrifices. The masks represent the spirits of familiar animals and…

  • Africa

    How do I find a mask expert?

    MasksoftheWorld.com is a good place to start. We know something about masquerade all over each of the world’s continents. We also include masks for Halloween, protection, protest, fetishes and more. We deal with everything that goes on the face that is dry rather than viscous. But does that make us experts? No. The real experts specialize in certain continents of the world or specific countries or cultures. These specialists (sometimes called “tribal art dealers”) can tell you way more about a mask than we can… and MOTW does occasionally make mistakes. About 2 weeks ago I confused a water spirit mask from one culture in West Africa with a fire…