• Africa

    Modern Dogon masks from Mali

    In the Dogon communities of Mali, West Africa, masked dancers perform, creating a brilliantly colored, ever-changing spectacle of sculpture, costume, song, and dance. During his research in the 1930s French anthropologist Marcel Griaule documented more than seventy different mask types, representing animals, birds, human characters, and abstract concepts, which he considered to be a visual summary of the world surrounding the Dogon people. Griaule saw the ceremonies as a stunning materialization of the close links between contemporary Dogon society and the many stages of life and death, prosperity and hardship, etc. We collectors sometimes forget that most of these Dogon masks tend to change as time goes by. The style…

  • Africa

    Chokwe Mwano Pwo mask repro

    Q: I bought this mask in store in Sarasota. I love it. I would like to know what is the value. Maria, 1624 A: This particular Mwano Pwo Mask is traditional in style and would be affordable for most people. I saw another one that was nicer offered by a reputable dealer for $800. Here is what they had to say about their reproduction. Representing ideal young female beauty, Mwano Pwo were danced with male counterparts, Chihongo, during initiation ceremonies and other important occasions to bring fertility and prosperity to the village. Most share the depiction of facial scarification patterns, filed teeth, fanciful and inventive hair styles, tear motifs and…

  • Africa

    Baule mask, authentic or repro

    Q: I bought several from an owner of a resale shop. They aren’t dealers and know very little about antiques. They came across a established photographer and painter and they ended up buying all he had. A storage unit I think. He worked in Chicago. They told me he said they were from Columbia. One says Ivory Coast on a piece of paper on the back. I paid 15.00 each and I would like to present them for sale. Janet, 1620 A: This looks to me like a Baule mask from Ivory Coast, West Africa. The problem is that you want to sell all of them and need to know…

  • Africa

    Bemba helmet mask

    Q: I recently acquired a mask from Bukavu, DRC. I’m told it’s a Bemba mask from the Uvira region. I was wondering if I could send you a photo to take a look to see if you might have more information on its quality and use. I’ve been told its quite old. It’s a helmeted mask with a carved face on four sides. It comes to a single wooden cylinder at the top and along the base it looks like there may be holes for a longer dress of grass or material. Matt, 1617 A: You a correct on culture and location. Here is some info I found on the…

  • Africa

    Don’t be afraid of African masks

    This is one of my favorite African masks. It is a Ngil from Gabon or Cameroon, wood colored with kaolin, by the Fang people, and from the Ethnological Museum of Berlin, Germany. Worn with full costume in a night masquerade to settle disputes and quell misbehavior, it is a sight to behold. African masks are the largest category of masks and the most popular. But many people worry about their authenticity. This has always been a problem. Today I googled “authentic African masks” and found that about 95% ranged from cheap tourist fakes to well made reproductions. African masks are often sold for more than their true value. But we…

  • Africa

    Mystery mask from the DRC

    Q: I happened to be in Paris during the annual international tribal art fair Parcours des Mondes (https://www.parcours-des-mondes.com). As such, we spent a few hours one afternoon hopping in and out of 2-3 dozen ethnographic art dealers, and I was quickly exposed to a wide variety of African masks, many of which were too expensive for the average collector due to their provenance and condition (e.g. Dan masks in the €8,000-€10,000 range). Although ethnographic art is new to me, I have been involved in numismatics and more recently ancient antiquities so I can understand how some of these pieces fetch large sums. That being said, these masks were far outside…

  • Africa

    Kuba masks from Central Africa

    Q: Thanks so much for providing this service! It’s awesome for folks new to this (like me). I picked this helmet mask up in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. I was told that it was a Congolese Kuba funeral mask. It’s size is Height: 17 inches, Width: 12 Inches and Depth: 13 inches. It has no eye holes. I paid USD 365 purely because I really liked it. Grateful for your thoughts. Either way, I love it and also picked up another mask there that i think is also Congolese. Scott, 1614 A: “The term Kuba refers to a group of closely related peoples with rich art traditions. They have over twenty…

  • Africa

    Contemporary mask from Africa’s DRC

    Q: This is a very recent purchase. It looks old, but of course we can’t tell anything for sure, however it looks very different to me. The tattered white cloth over the back is 12″ long, the red cloth is 24″ long. I paid $75 dollars for it. Deb, 1613 A: As a collector who does not specialize in African masks, I will foolishly guess this is a recently made (and possibly used) artifact from the Mbala people of north-western Democratic Republic of Congo. But I hope we get some help from one of our regular visitors who knows more about African masks than I do. Let’s watch for a…

  • Africa

    Puno mask from Africa

    Q: I bought this mask from an estate sale of a well traveled man who served in both Northern Africa and Burma in the war. His daughter said she can remember the mask as a child and it used to scare her. I have no idea if there is truth to the story but she was in her early 70s. I paid $60 for it. I have always loved tribal masks but don’t know enough about them to comfortably collect them. I should note that the reddish colour and white are not paints but powder. Jarrett, 1606 A: Nice mask in my opinion. You got it for a good price.…

  • Africa

    Baga snake headdresses from Guinea Bassau

    Most mask collectors also like to display headdresses as well. They are used by tribal dancers for the same purpose as masks. Headdresses can be quite tall. These three are in the 40 to 50 inch range. What I like especially about the Baga snakes is that they are perfect tall sculptures. I can’t think of a European sculpture who quite measures up to this degree of fine art… well maybe Giacometti or Brancusi. With sinuous curves and reptilian form, this large wooden carving represents the Baga Snake, or Bansonyi, a protective spirit that presides over male initiation rites of the Baga people of Guinea Bassau, on the coast of…