• 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…

  • Africa

    Tourist mask… from Africa or Asia?

    Q:  I am sincerely hoping you can help solve a 25 year mystery. When I picked up this mask in a junk shop in Yorkshire for £5 the shop owner ‘wanted it out’. In all those years I have searched until I have gone mask blind and never found anything similar. Could you please shed some light on it’s origins, is it ritualistic? It is finely carved, yet the pentagram on the forehead looks crude and possibly added later. Could it have had a stick at the bottom to hold over the face? The only fastening marks are where I removed vintage electrical wire used for hanging. I love it…

  • Africa

    Contemporary African masks are rejected.

    Mende Ode-Lay mask from Sierra Leone, Bobo butterfly mask from Burkina Faso, and the Dogon traditional mask from Mali were all used in the 21st century. They are truly authentic, and well made. I believe all three should be in collections, or famous museum with displays of African art. African traditional art has always evolved. Today masks are made with steel tools, painted with bright enamel, and often decorated with store-bought materials. Right now you can buy them for a very reasonable price. Almost all of the masks, as well as other carvings, put on the market today are supposed to look old and used. They are neither. What you…

  • Africa

    Is masquerade still alive in Africa?

    Yes. Though painted with store-bought colors, some of the masks used today do not look much different than those from a 100 years ago. Others, like the five I’m showing today, are different. African folk art is changing just like so many other things. After all, the continent has experienced colonization, Christianity, Islam and urbanization. These are being used now in there respective cultures. They are not meant to be sold as collectibles for white people. We call them modern traditional art and they are hard to find on the internet or anywhere else. Most of what we see for sale today are poorly carved masks that try to look…

  • Africa

    Water spirit mask from Niger delta

    Yoruba-Ijebu mask (24 inches long) for the Ekine cult, depicting the water spirit Igodo from the Wests African country of Nigeria was sold at  Sotheby’s. I believe these people are also referred to as Ijaw.  The Niger river dominates their region. The mask is often worn on the top of the head of a man walking in deep water. Then all you can see is this strange creature gliding across the river. I’ll bet you would like one of these on your wall. Don’t worry– you can sometimes find affordable reproductions on the internet. A Nigerian water spirit is a must for any African mask collection. This mask is a…