• Africa

    Pende African buffalo mask

    There are several Pende masks on MasksoftheWorld.com. This is the most famous one. It is extremely wide. With big, dramatic eyes on an abstracted design that is perfectly symmetrical. You will never forget it. This is the kind of African art that stunned Europe in the 1800’s. Sharing both a masquerade and an architectural function, the panya ngombe mask of the Eastern or Kasai Pende signifies a wild buffalo, yet in performance it is the mask that collects offerings at the end of initiation festivities. Versions of this mask known as kenene decorate the lintel on a paramount chief’s dwelling.

  • Africa

    Typical African masks bought by beginners

    Q:  I fell in love with masks (especially from Africa) after travelling through South Africa. Then I started to buy and collect some. This is my very first mask, which I bought at an auction. I have no idea which country or region it belongs to, or if it could be something authentic or not. Maybe you have an answer for me.  Best regards, Katja  1820 A:  There are many wood carvers in Africa because it is so hard to find descent paying jobs. Every year those people make hundreds of thousands of tribal masks and other carvings for tourists and collectors. Sometimes the masks are as good as the…

  • Africa

    Authentic African Ekpo mask?

    Most of the African masks you see on the market today are quickly-made fakes. They always look old and worn. Some are carefully-made reproductions which can be very convincing. Marketing masks is a huge business in Africa. If you’re like me, you want your African mask collection to be authentic. The problem is that I would have to pay at least a few thousand dollars each. But I started about 50 years ago, so I have a few. I have another way of getting an authentic African masks. Search for masks that look like no Caucasian tourist or collector would want them. Pictured here is probably an old and well…

  • Africa

    Pende pumbu mask

    This cap mask  comes from the Central Pende people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Said to be from the mid to late 20th century art, it is part of the Krannert Art Museum’s collection. It is unusual. For comparison I’m attaching two familiar Pende masks– the black and white sickness mask, and the wonderful bull buffalo. Masquerading enjoyed an extraordinary resurgence in the Central Pende region in the early twentieth century, in part because so many other routes to male prestige had been blocked. In the 1930s, during the Pende rebellion, masquerade performance constituted a form of resistance to Belgian colonial rule. Pende masquerade performance remains vital to…

  • Africa

    Masquerade during the pandemic

    I found this beautiful photo on Google with the following copy: African men and women wearing protective face masks decorated in brightly colored acrylic yarn are the subject of a new collaboration between Pierre Le Riche, who created the masks in Cape Town, and photographer Nonzuzo Gxekwa, who photographed them in Johannesburg. Entitled The Mask Project, the series is being added to the exhibition at THK Gallery, Cape Town, which continues until 29 August. Cases of Covid-19 in South Africa have been increasing by more than 10,000 per day, with the total fast approaching 500,000. The artists say the models were photographed bare-skinned to emphasize our myriad vulnerabilities during the pandemic. ‘I do…

  • Africa

    Interesting Dan gle mask

    Q:  I found this little passport Dan mask in a flea market for a bargain price. What made me interested was just the rear, which looked older. It was only 20 cm long, more or less.  Can you please give me your opinion?  Monica, 1803 A:  Of course, this is some sort of Dan mask. It has several interesting features. There are two pairs of extra holes for fastening it to a belt or a body part. The carving does not appear to have been done with modern steel tools. And, as Monica points out, the rear looks authentically old. There are perhaps more Dan masks than any other kind.…

  • Africa

    Beautiful African mask

    Q:  I am unable to define the possible origin of this mask. It was acquired it a few years ago because it has a “mysterious” look. After some personal research I found that the geographical origin could be the Ivory Coast region and it has some features of the Guro tribe. Notice the scarifications on the forehead and cheeks. The overall condition is good. It is 20 cm high. Thanks for your advice.  Patrick, 1801 A:  My advice is for you to keep this beautiful mask… or give it to a museum. You are right, it is probably a female character from the Guro or Baule of Ivory Coast.  It’s…

  • Africa

    Dan look-a-like

      Q:  Please take a look at my photos and let me know what exactly this is. Thank you so much. I just collect all kinds. I really like the vintage masks.  Debbie, 1797 A:  I think it is a recently made fake mask meant to sell for a lot of money. It has been carefully carved, accessorized and aged… a beautiful piece of decorative art that reminds one of the Dan culture in Ivory Coast and Liberia. Let’s hope it gets a nice home. However, only authentic masks should sell for a lot of money. Carefully made reproductions should sell for less. When artistic originality is introduced, the price…

  • Africa

    Igbo crest mask from Africa

    The Igbo crest mask of the middle Cross River region in Southern Nigeria has an extremely rich and diverse masking tradition that embodies the spirits of tribal ancestors.  The mask projects expressive facial features with white pigment, sensitive eyes, aquiline nose, open mouth showing teeth and an elaborate hairstyle that is one of the most artistic I have seen. Crest masks share stylistic forms of neighboring tribal groups such as the Idoma, Ijo, Isoko, Ibibio and Ekoi.   They were danced in ceremonies for fertility, to cure illness, and at funerals.  

  • Africa

    7th Chewa Mask blog

    I noticed this mask from Zambia on the internet recently. Over the years I’ve posted at least 6 Chewa masks, and they’ve always been much different from each other. The Chewa prefer this to replicating traditional designs as most tribes do. You can access our 6 on the homepage by typing in the word “chewa” and scrolling down. A member of a Bantu-speaking people of Malawi in Zambia, they can be found in Mozambique and Zimbabwe as well.  One key aspect of their traditional religion that has survived colonial and Christian prohibition is the all-male Nyau secret society, which performs traditional rites of passage. Masquerade is practiced a lot, and…