• 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…

  • Africa

    Lele mask from DRC

    Q: I purchased this in DRC in 2010. Ben, 1533 A: Normally I need to get more information from people who want me to identify their Mystery Mask. No problem here. I know exactly what this one is. I found that AfricaDirect.com has an almost identical piece for sale. Here’s what they have to say. I haven’t changed their spelling. Like Ben’s mask, their Lele is a carefully made reproduction you can buy for a low price. An equally handsome authentic version of the same mask could not be afforded by 99% of us. The Leele live in the confluence of the Sankuru and Kasai Rivers in territory which adjoins…

  • Africa

    Rare Bindji mask from DRC

    Q: This mask does have some history. Me and my father worked in the Democratic Republic of Congo. While there we purchased a few masks, some of which are tourist pieces, but every now and then we got a good one. This one was given to us as a farewell present when we left. But I have no info about where it is from and if or not it is old. Judging by the wood it dose have some age to it. It also seams to have been repaired at some point. The repair is one of my favorite features of it. Here are some pictures. Please let me know…

  • Africa

    Kota reliquaries are often in mask collections

    That is because they’re so beautiful. This abstract sculpture would have stunned the great European artists of the 19th century. The Kota live in villages comprising two or more clans. Clans in turn comprise several lineages or family groups that trace their descent from a common lineage ancestor. This is an important point related to their art, for like the Fang, the Kota revere the relics of ancestors. Ancestor worship formed the core of the family group’s religious and social life. At the death of a chief, the initiates would take from the body of the deceased various relics, which were then decorated with metal and rubbed with powders of…

  • Africa

    Big Bedu plank mask

    The Bedu mask is one of the largest masks in Africa and is from the Bondoukou region of Ivory Coast. They are usually from 4 to 8 feet tall and can weigh almost 100 pounds. The mask is generally danced once a year at New Year festivities, but can also appear a harvest festivals and funerals. Only strong young men can manage these performances. This one is about 5 feet tall. Note how small the eye holes look on the middle of the shield. The black and white pattern would be quite an attention-getter when it was new. These unique plank masks make strong abstract statements and have been compared…