• Africa

    African bird mask of questionable value

    Q: I’m pretty sure this mask is a tourist repro, but would you be able to let me know for sure? Marie, 1763 A: It is definitely a repro. But there is much more we would like to know. Does it come from the Dan or the Baga people? Is it true to the tribe’s traditional designs and markings, or is it a mix of both? If it is the former I would give it a B. Mixes would be in the C range. This bird mask could have been made in Liberia or the Ivory Coast by the Dan tribe, or one of their near relatives. It probably represents…

  • Africa

    Mysterious Pende mask

    Q: I would like to have your views on the origins of this mask, which I bought for about $40 at an antique dealer in Montreal who was not used to dealing with African masks. As you can see, it is damaged and it seems rather old, and has has a very strong presence. The shape of the face somehow reminds me of some Pende masks I have seen, but this one remains mysterious. Jean-Francois, 1760 A: Despite the wear and damage, this beautifully carving does indeed make a strong presence. Unfortunately, I cannot identify the character it represents or tribal group from which it comes (along the Kwilu River…

  • Africa

    Bundu mask from Sierra Leone

    There are two other Bundus in our archives. This one is different because it has a white decoration and a full skirt. Used by the Sande Society for the passage into womanhood by Mende girls, it is the only mask in Africa that is not worn by men. Note that there are 1759 masks in this website’s archive. Press the “Q” on the right of the home page, type in a word and then press “Enter.” Keep trying different words or combinations until you get what you want. There are about 1000 more masks in the book, Masks of the World by Ibold & Yohn, which you can order on…

  • Africa

    Kwere mask from Tanzania

    The Kwere people (also called Doei) migrated to what is now Tanzania around 1000 A.D. from south of Mozambique. The Kwere do not have centralized political systems, but instead are based on self-governing matrilineal kin groups. Lineage heads are chosen by community leaders. These leaders are responsible for distributing land and maintaining lineage rituals. Leaders are also in charge of settling disputes between family members and are often attributed with having spiritual powers. Most Kwere believe in mulungu, a god who was associated with rainfall. Most prayers are directed to familial spirits. Religion among the Kwere is a household affair and every family member is responsible for appeasing its ancestral…

  • Africa

    Yombe mask from DRC

    Called a nganga diphomba, this handsome mask would have been made in what was then called the lower Belgian Congo. It is now in the Royal Museum of Central Africa. It was used for many different purposes in ceremonies for the Yombe people. As you can see, the carving is expert, where as the rough chin extension is there for a beard of buffalo hair to be attached. I hope you appreciate this mask as much as I do. The second nganga is a female version from the Brooklyn Museum of Art and was more quickly made and then used much more. Both would get an A. Bob, 1756

  • Africa

    African Influences in Modern Art

    During the early 1900s, the aesthetics of traditional African sculpture became a powerful influence among European artists who formed an avant-garde in the development of modern art. In France, Henri Matisse , Pablo Picasso , and their School of Paris friends blended the highly stylized treatment of the human figure in African sculptures with painting styles derived from the post-Impressionist works of C├ęzanne and Gauguin . The resulting pictorial flatness, vivid color palette, and fragmented Cubist shapes helped to define early modernism. While these artists knew nothing of the original meaning and function of the West and Central African sculptures they encountered, they instantly recognized the spiritual aspect of the…

  • Africa

    3 African Helmet Masks

    These are common throughout Africa. The first mask is from the Suka people of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Covering the dancer’s entire head and resting on his shoulders, it is very rare that African helmet masks would be used for protection in fighting. The second is a Sowei for the women’s Sande Society in Sierra Lione. We posted one called “Sande Society mask for women only” July 16, 2019. You can access it easily. Last is a Lipiko, a mask that is still greatly used in both Mozambique and Tanzania. You can find several on this site. These last two helmet masks are very popular with collectors. There are…

  • Africa

    3 African crest masks

    Crest masks sit over the top of the head. Visualize a helmet mask that is way too small. They can be found with the costumes of several tribes in a number of different regions. Two live in southeastern Nigeria and western Cameroon and produce a distinctive types of crests or helmet masks carved from wood and oftencovered with animal skin, possibly from an antelope. With or without the leather, these two masks get a lot of attention. Both portray the human head with a high degree of naturalism. They have expressive facial features, intricate linear tattoo patterns, complex spiral horn coiffures, and feather and fiber ornaments. They would have been…

  • Africa

    3 African multiple-faced masks

    The many tribes living on the continent of Africa use an amazing number of different masks. MasksoftheWorld.com and our book both have way more African masks than any other kind. However there is one subcategory that doesn’t show up in catalogs and collections very often. That would be the ones that have two, three or four faces on the same mask. Obviously they are harder and more costly to make, and can be difficult to display. Using Google you can find them easily. Collectors should try to own at least one each that are well made and affordable (reproductions). The first shown on this blog is a reproduction of a…

  • Africa

    Yellow Zaouli mask from Africa

    Q: I would be really grateful if you could tell me if any of my masks are worth anything. I am only sending you photos of one mask, but I have about 20. Maybe I can upload them to a website and then send you a link to view them ? Kia, 1744 A: Zaouli is a traditional dance of the Guro people of central Ivory Coast. The Zaouli mask, used in the dance of the same name, was created in the 1950s, reportedly inspired by a girl named Djela Lou Zaouli. However, stories on the origins of the mask are varied, and each mask can have its own symbolic…