• Africa

    Old We/Guere mask

    Q: This mask was given to my mother, Mary Ellen Goodman, PhD, by one of her professors, the famous anthropologist Clyde Kluckhohn, probably in the late 1930s. I’ve always loved it but don’t know anything about it. Images are shot against an 8.5×11 inch paper for scale. Lanny, 1571 A: This is probably an old We Guere Mask from the people of Cote d’Ivoire. If it was found in a thrift shop or on eBay, I would dismiss it as a cheap tourist mask. But because of the family provenance, I think we should look at it more closely. The size and wood seems right. None of the surfaces are…

  • Africa

    Mwaash aMbooy Kuba mask

    Q: Please find attached a Kuba mask, also collected by father in the 50’s. Exceptionally well made both in terms of craftsmanship and artistic symmetry. Facial cover made of iron plate. Height 62cm and width at base 45cm. It has been worn, but not much. Jan, 1568 A: Rarely does the Mask Man get to see high quality artifacts in his mail. Of course, elaborately beaded Kuba masks are popular with collectors and you can easily find them on the internet. But they won’t be quite as nice as this one. Please increase the size of these photos to appreciate the detail. The Kuba Kingdom, also known as the Kingdom…

  • Africa

    Interesting fake from Cameroon, or authentic mask from Angola

    Q: Hi, thank you for your help. I have this mask and can not find another one like it. What can you tell me! I have an excess of masks, and am trying to sell some of them. Diane, 1567 A: I haven’t seen one quite like this. A good guess is that it was made somewhere in Cameroon to look like an old and used Ekoi helmet mask. They are often of carved wood covered with animal skin and painted. The overall structure is of stiff basketry. If you try to sell it I hope you resist calling it an authentic Ekoi mask. It is instead a quickly made…

  • Africa

    Kota reliquary guardian figure

    Q: I am curious about this. I won it at a raffle in Washington DC and was told that someone in the state department had brought it back from, generically, Africa. Any information? Natasha, 1562 A: This is not a mask. It is an almost flat, sculpted portrait that seems to show up in African mask collections because of its unique appearance and beauty. They vary in size, but always follow the same format. Sizes can range from 6 inches 3 feet. This one is 21 inches. They are made with a combination of wood and hammered metal. The Kota once used reliquary guardian figures (called mbulu ngulu) to protect…

  • Africa

    Bwa rooster mask, Burkina Faso

    Q: What type of mask and how much should I sell it for as I no longer have the space to keep it. Jeanne, 1560 A: The Bwa usually carve masks that symbolize animals or spirits of the bush which are then worn during ceremonies for the new crop, initiations or funerals. They are highly abstracted and come in many different design variations. You don’t see a lot of them for sale, and this can be confusing for beginning collectors. I’m sorry, but as a professional appraiser I cannot give you a selling price or any marketing information without payment of a fee.

  • Africa

    Suku helmet mask from Africa

    Q: We’ve had this mask since the early 90s. At the time a college friend worked for a woman (whose parents had been in Africa for many years) who had an African imports and artifacts store here in Minneapolis. I photographed the artifacts for her and she gave us the mask. Sporadic web searches over the years have yielded no useful results. At this point I would simply like to know if it appears likely to merit an appraisal. Drew, 1559 A: Suku, also called Basuku, people of southwestern Congo (Kinshasa) and northwestern Angola. They speak a Bantu language of the Niger-Congo group of languages. Suku women cultivate cassava (yuca)…

  • Africa

    Mblo portrait mask from West Africa

    For the Baule people of Ivory Coast, masks are danced and performed to entertain. This Mblo mask’s feminine features and colors create an image of calm and grace. The mask is meant to exemplify an ideal of personal beauty and composure. Mblo is the name of a performance category that uses face masks in skits and solo dances. Mblo masks, used in entertainment dances are one of the oldest of Baule art forms. These refined human face masks are usually portraits of particular known individuals. Mblo masks embody the core Baule sculpture style manifested in figures and decorated objects – spoons, combs, pulleys and the like. Lustrous curving surfaces, suggesting…

  • Africa

    Red Dan mask

    Q: I think it is a Poro Dan mask, from Cote d’Ivorie or Liberia. It is covered in red cloth with a nail hammered in the top. The eyes are made from a very thin metal. The mouth and mustache is made from animal fur and the teeth seem to be actual animal teeth. Any more info would be greatly appreciated. I think that it was worn and used, but I would highly appreciate you’re input. Marcel, 1553 A: I apologize for taking so long to answer. I was vacationing in Mexico City with my son and grandson. It’s a great place to visit. Real estate is expensive, but everything…

  • Africa

    Bedu mask from Ivory Coast

    Along with this blog, I’m now doing volunteer work for the Phillips Museum of Art at F&M College in my home town of Lancaster, PA. I was especially impressed with this Bedu plank mask from a recently acquired collection. Here it is at the museum entrance with a very pleased researcher. This is one of the largest tribal masks used in Africa, when you combine dimensions and weigh. Typical sizes ranges from five to eight feet high and they can weigh as much as 100 pounds. It is danced at New Years, funerals, harvest festivals and other events, always by the very strongest young men in the Bedu Association in…

  • Africa

    Fabric Salampasu mask from DRC

    The 60,000 Salampasu people live east of the Kasai River, on the frontier between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Angola. Their name is said to mean “hunters of locusts”, but they were widely viewed with terror by adjacent groups. They maintain strong commercial and cultural relations with their southern neighbors, the Chokwe and the Lunda, to whom they pay tribute. The Salampasu are homogeneous people governed by territorial chiefs, who supervise village chiefs. Their hierarchical power structure is counterbalanced by a warriors’ society. A people with a reputation as fearless warriors, the Salampasu have retained the custom of a rough and primitive life. Warring and hunting are privileged…