• 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…

  • Africa

    Why have a mask appraised?

    This mask is a Baule Mblo and it comes from Ivory Coast in West Africa. It is obviously of good quality, but is it authentic or a carefully-made reproduction? You can learn more about Baule masks by going to “Africa” in our archive section. Full disclosure, I do mask appraisals, for which I am paid. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, why should you get a mask appraised? Here are some of the reasons people have.    You are pretty sure it is valuable.  How best to sell it?  You want to keep the mask(s) but need to know more.  For what should I insure it?  Is…

  • Africa

    Mystique of the African Gelede mask

    While the specific meanings and use associated with ritual masks vary widely in different cultures, some traits are common to many African cultures. Ritual and ceremonial masks are an essential feature of the traditional culture of the peoples of a part of Sub-Saharan Africa. Masks used in a traditional context usually have a spiritual and religious meaning and they are used in ritual dances and social and religious events. A special status is attributed to the artists who create masks, and to those that wear them in ceremonies. In many cases, mask-making is an art that is passed on from father to son, along with the knowledge of the symbolic…

  • Africa

    Another water spirit from Nigeria

    Q:  Found at town dump in a small town with old families.  Fred, 1466 A:  I just posted one of these September 26, 2018. It was an old, used example from the Met. Yours is a new one of good quality, possibly meant for use or sale. It has high value because water spirit headdresses from the Ijebu (also spelled Ijaw, Ijo) are hard to find. “Water deities are perceived to be the forces ultimately responsible for individual acquisition of wealth and power. Among the Kalabari, an Ijo subgroup that occupies the eastern part of the delta, one of the most important village institutions is the Ekine society, an association…

  • 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…