• Africa

    Reproductions of African masks can be collectible

    Q:  I own a what I believe is a Dan mask which has been in the family for quite some time now. It has been much appreciated but now in search of a new home. Was wondering if you could tell me some things about the mask.   Dagomar, 1449 A:  Thanks for the excellent photos. Your Dan is the deangle type, with the familiar slit eye holes and vertical ridge on the bulging forehead. It is considered by the Dan to be very feminine. Even though it is a reproduction that could have been carved someplace other than Liberia or the Ivory Coast, it makes a great impression with it’s…

  • Africa

    Baule mask from West Africa

    The Baule were a tribe that originated in the present day Ivory Coast area in Africa many years ago.  The Baule assimilated a number of their neighbors’ masquerade forms: a naturalistic face mask, a horned helmet mask, and a flat circular mask called kple kple. The last of these, a male mask of junior rank, is one of several paired works that would perform sequentially in Goli society entertainments or funerals. It impersonates an unruly nature spirit that is considered to be both frightening and amusing. The flat, disk-shaped face with ringed eyes and rectangular mouth is surmounted by ears and large curving horns. The bold red coloring has contrasting…

  • Africa

    Complex African traditional art

    The character represented in this mask, Banda (also called Kumbaruba by some Baga groups), is a complex composite of human and animal forms. The long horizontal headdress is composed of the face of a human being and the jaw of a crocodile, whose angular teeth are visible along the side of the mask. The human face is characterized by Baga scarification marks as well as a woman’s elaborately braided coiffure. The top of the headdress features the horns of an antelope, the body of a serpent, and the tail of a chameleon. Banda headdresses are quite large; this example measures just over four feet in length. Yet despite their unwieldy…

  • Africa

    What is the value of a mask?

    Q:  I am inquiring on behalf of the owner of an art gallery in South Africa who has this mask in their collection. It was acquired from an informal trader. Not sure of price, but not more than a few hundred. Any info welcome. I only have one photo.  Leigh, 1432 A:  This looks like an old wooden mask from the Salampasu people who live in south-central Democratic Republic of Congo. Similar masks are often covered with small sections of sheet metal. This could be an old, used mask of considerable value, but without front, side and rear views at higher resolution, I can’t tell. I have seen many of…

  • Africa

    Spectacular Igbo mask from Africa

    This masterpiece was carved in the North West Region of Nigeria in the late 19th or early 20th century out of one piece of wood. It is 23 inches tall. ● Rediscovered Masterpieces of African Art, Dapper Museum, 1987, p. 155 ● African Art in American collections, W.M. Robbins & N.I. Nooter, 1989, no. 677 ● Facing the Mask, Franck Herreman, Museum for African Art, New York, 2002, no. 30 You can read more about this famous mask in any of the above books. This mask is one of the most complex and carefully carved wood sculptures I have ever seen. Also read about the Igbo people and their art. There are over 500…

  • Africa

    Bamun mask from the Grasslands

      Q:  Can you help me identify this wood carved mask. The mask is about 13-1/2” at the widest part and 19” in height from chin to top of head.  My uncle purchased it from an artist in Honolulu in 1990.  Ben, 1416 A:  The masks comes from an important area that has distinctive masks and other folk art. The Grasslands of Cameroon are composed of three ethnic groups with ancestors in common. There are the one million Bamileke spread over the southwestern plateaus, in communities that have from 50,000 to 100,000 people; the 500,000 Bamenda-Tikar in the north; and, finally, the Bamum in the northwest, with a population of…

  • Africa

    Guere mask from Liberia

    A dance mask with a mouth that moves from the Guere people of Liberia. Along with the Wobe and Sapo, and the We who live across the border in Ivory Coast, their carved art is similar. Wood with natural pigments, paint, horse hair, rope, leather, feathers, metal studs and other materials are often used in various combinations to make for a frightening appearance. As you can see, reticulating jaws are not uncommon. If it is not authentic, it is a very good reproduction.

  • Africa

    Unusual mask from the DRC

    I picked it out (on Pinterest) because I was so impressed by its design and beauty, however there was no description. Many different Kuba masks have strange horns, eyes, mouths, sculpted eyebrows, or intense decoration like this one, but never in this combination. Pende, Luba, and other tribes of the Democratic Republic of Congo are also capable of surprising creativity. Please comment on this African mystery mask.

  • Africa

    Vuvi mask from northern Gabon

    This beautiful mask is called a Moghondzi and used mostly at funeral ceremonies. It appears to be authentic and has developed a nice patina over the years. Don’t expect to find something like this in a thrift shop. Interesting fact:  the Bwiti people, who live across the border in southern Cameroon, use masks that closely resemble the photo you see. It’s an example of how design ideas are sometimes influenced by nearby cultures. There are so many different tribes in Africa that we see a lot of similarities between them.

  • Africa

    Cheap Liberian mask

    Q:  Purchased at a garage sale with a mask from the Congo. Is it made with horsehair and wood? Help!  Melissa,1401 A:  This quickly-made mask of carved wood and horsehair makes me think of the Grebo, Guere and We people living around that area of West Africa. It was made to sell to tourists or an exporter. It would be appropriate for a beginner’s collection of African traditional art.  Call it a repro of a Liberian mask.  C