• Africa

    Bundu mask of Sande Society

      Q:  My father acquired this mask in the early 1940’s. He was in the Navy or working for Pan Am in Liberia. It was WWII. This helmet mask is made from wood 16 1/2 inches tall and the bottom opening is an oval 7 1/2 by 9 1/4 inches. My recollection is that he took it from a dwelling at some risk to himself. I believe it was worn in connection with a woman’s coming of age ceremony/ritual/retreat. My father died in 1995, and I offered to return the mask by contacting a Liberian embassy. They did not reply.  Joanne, 1793 A: You have one of the most collectible…

  • Africa

    The sixth Chewa mask

    The Chewa people in Malawi, SE Africa, make my favorite masks. They are very creative and have a sense of humor. Even better, they are constantly practicing masquerade, which means authentic masks are readily available at affordable prices. You can see and read about five other Chewas on this site. On our front page (1) hit the magnifying glass icon, (2) type “chewa” and (3) hit Enter. Unfortunately, I don’t own the Elvis Presley mask. It’s in the Brooklyn Museum. Malawi is a country rich in the different cultures of its diverse population. One of the most unique and interesting cultural events that attracts a lot of interest from tourists…

  • Africa

    Baga Simbondel headdress

    Many collectors have never seen Simbondel headdresses. More likely they’ve seen Baga snake headdresses or Baga Nimba shoulder masks. Each of these magnificent sculptures are something you won’t want to miss. Sorry, the three scans are low-res and can’t be enlarged much. The Baga people of West Africa have for centuries produced monumental works despite their small population and history of subjugation. They number no more than 40,000 in all, and live in several groups of villages along a 100-mile stretch of Guinea’s coast. They have never held major political power, and have been subjugated by others, both African and European. Not a people you would think important enough for…

  • Africa

    African Mystery

    Q: This is rather nice. Cannot quiet pinpoint the region. Alma, 1787 A: Probably northwest African. Hard to be sure, but it looks like a Dan mask, except really primitive. This makes sense, but damned if I can find anything in the reference books or internet that looks like this. Have any of you guys seen something like this? Any suggestion in the comment box will be appreciated.

  • Africa

    Suku helmet mask from Congo

    The 80,000 Suku (Basuku) people have lived in the southwestern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo since the 16th century. They have an initiation, the n-khanda. A special hut is built in the forest to give shelter to the postulants during their retreat; the event ends in circumcision, an occasion for great masked festivities including dances and song. The masks fulfill several functions: some serve as protection against evil forces, others ensure the fertility of the young initiate. Their role consists in frightening the public, healing the sick, and casting spells. The charm masks of the initiation specialist do not “dance.” Their appearance must engender terror, especially the…

  • Africa

    Nice story about two masks

    Q: I’m just wondering if someone within your organization can help me? I have two African masks on my wall that, ever since my three month old baby was born, she has giggled and laughed nonstop at them. They really make her very happy. When she is upset and crying and looks at the masks, they immediately cheer her up. I am wondering if there is any significance and/or how I can find out? Thank you! Christina, 1781 A: Masks usually make many of our viewers (and me!) happy, but not these two. Both are made for tourists and people who know very little about tribal art (babies?). The mask…

  • Africa

    Dogon Hare’s Mask with figure on top

    Q: It is certainly Dogon, as it has all of the classic cubital facial planes typical of their masking. However, the seller identified it as a Dogon hunters mask. I’m not sure I’m convinced this is the proper categorization. First, the mask has all of the typical formations of the Hare mask (or Gomintogo) of the Dogo people of Mali. But what really sets it apart, and in my view, raises questions about its classification as a “hunters” mask, is the standing female figure on top. This is not typical of the hunters mask, although I’ve seen some images with female head mounts. Quincy, 1777 A: This looks authentic to…

  • Africa

    Mbunda wise, old man mask

    100 years old and heavily used, this badly damaged mask is still a joy to behold. Here is what Jean-Baptiste Bacquart has to say… The Mbunda live in West Zambia, on either side of the Angolan border. They are subdivided into groups (Subiya, Mbalango etc). The ‘Sachihongo masks’ of the Mbunda denote a powerful, mighty chieftain, a hunter and a medicine man, who had lived a long time ago. This mask of the ‘wise, old grandee’ is used in the initiation of boys where it embodies the figure of the all adjudicating respected authority. Carved in lightweight, light-colored wood and colored dark brown. On the front side can be found…

  • Africa

    Turtle shell Bwami mask from Africa

    Q: I purchased this mask for $150.00 today at an antique shop in Ticonderoga, NY. It’s made from a turtle shell. The antique shop owner believes it’s an aboriginal Indian ceremonial mask but wasn’t sure. I’m new to collecting masks and hoping I didn’t over pay but the mask looks very old and legit. Matthew, 1773 A: I don’t think you over paid by much. It’s new and made for sale to the trade, however this beautiful, well made mask is from the Lega tribe in the middle of the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is the largest country on the continent. Masks and figures are symbols of the Lega…

  • Africa

    Old Bini mask from Nigeria

    Q: If you can identify region. Alma, 1770 A: Alma, I wish you would write a bit more about this interesting mask. Who you bought it from, when, where, how much you paid, dimensions, etc. Any of this info might help a person remember something. I can’t remember seeing a mask like it, but will classify it as African because that seems like a descent guess. We know you would like to identify its tribe and location, as well as determine authenticity. Who knows, it could be quite valuable. Thanks for sharing your Mystery Mask with us. Bob (See recent comments)