• Africa

    Ogoni or Ibibio mystery mask

    Q: This is an Ogoni tribal helmet mask from Nigeria, West Africa. Got it at a really great price. Carved out of wood, with glass eyes, it is more unique for any other mask we have come across before. It measures almost 16″ from top to bottom x 8″ wide x 8″ deep. It has shells across the top of the eyes, with one is missing. It appears to be quite old, but not sure of age. My guess is mid century or earlier. Shaun, 1734 A: Unusual design, very well made and a lovely patina that suggests usage and care, but you bought it cheap and have no provenance.…

  • Africa

    Bwa Nunuma mask, Burkina Faso

    The Bwa and Nuna live in the dry savannah land of central Burkina Faso. Like other peoples in this area, the Bwa and Nuna seek the help of powerful spirits who live in the wild forests, bush country, and rivers surrounding their villages. The older Bwa masks were made with leaves, feathers and vegetable fibers. They were used in the rituals of the Do initiation society. Later, the Bwa began to carve wooden masks for their rituals, being based on the masks of their neighbors the Gurunsi/Nunuma and their cousins the Bobo. All Bwa masks represent the spirits of the nature who have some influence on the human being. Wishing…

  • Africa

    Nice Chewa mask from Malawi

    My first Chewa post was in Jan, 2019: https://masksoftheworld.com/one-of-my-favorite-masks-chewa/ Recently I saw this one and really liked it. If you have an interest in authentic ethnographic masks, especially African, please explore the Nyau society masks of the Chewa in Malawi, East Africa. Masquerade there is still going strong. Bob, 1730

  • Africa

    Pende deformity mask

    Q: Here you will find the second mask ‘black and white’. With my best regards. Eduard, 1729 A: It would have been nice if he would have furnished more info such as size, who, when and how much. I’m posting it, along with two different Pende deformity masks, because they are so interesting. There are also a few other places in the world where deformity masks are used in masquerade. Here is some information from the Canadian Museum of History. The mask comes from the Central Pende region in the Bandundu province, in the southern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It falls into the category of mbuya…

  • Africa

    Kefwebe mask for a museum

    Q: I purchased this Kifwebe mask from the photographer Berenice Abbott in 1990. She said that she traded photographic work for it with an African art dealer in New York in 1932. I have been asked to loan it for an exhibition and it would be helpful if I could supply the museum with some information about its origin. I am not looking to sell the mask. Todd, 1728 A: Of course, your mask made by the famous Songye tribe in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The following description comes from Rand African Art. You can find many more scans and copy with the aid of Google. This Kifwebe…

  • Africa

    New fake of Dan bird mask

    Q: A good friend of mine is selling his collection of antiques because unfortunately he has to be admitted to a care home because of his advanced age. He offers me this ‘bird mask'(see attached photos). I like beautiful, old things. I am not an expert on masks at all. It does not seem to me to be a product for the tourists, but to be tribal, ceremonial and ‘old’. Can you help me with the determination and how much can I spend without paying too much? For the time being, I cannot provide you with additional information other than these photos. Eduard, 1727 A: Similar “old masks” have been…

  • Africa

    Masks from Sierra Leone

    Sierra Leone is one of the smallest countries in Africa and yet it has a large impact on curators and collectors of masks. The Mende and Temne people who live their are strong in art and culture, especially with masquerade. They are the two largest ethnic groups. Two of the photos you see here are Jolies used for parades, especially in the capitol of Freetown by the popular Ode-Lay Society. They can be very elaborate, but others are much simpler and less expensive. The black helmet-style mask is worn by girls passing into adulthood at a Sande Society ceremony. The mask is called a Bundu. To the best of my…

  • Africa

    Unpainted Gu mask from Ivory Coast

    We recently posted a fully painted one which you can see by going to– https://masksoftheworld.com/gu-mask-from-west-africa/ Actually, this “unpainted” one has a little white paint. It is well made and beautiful. I don’t know if this dark brown one is authentic or a reproduction. If the latter, most of us could afford it. The photo was taken by Roman Bonnefoy. Here is some information on African masks for beginners… Ritual and ceremonial masks are an essential feature of the traditional culture and art of the peoples of Sub-Saharan and West African. While the specific implications associated to ritual masks widely vary in different cultures, some traits are common to most African…

  • Africa

    More on African masks

    The Mask Man: The first photo was shot at a Dogon village ceremony, the second one is a recently made fake. Authentic African masks are found in museums and high-end galleries– not at local auctions and yard sales. I Googled “African tribal masks” and looked carefully at about 300 images. Only 16 were authentic! I wasn’t too surprised. The Mask Man has been looking at photos of mystery masks sent in to this website for almost 20 years. I answer all of the emails but only post about 10% nowadays. As I have said before, if you buy a mask in Africa or anywhere else, assume it was made for…

  • Africa

    Ntomo masks from Mali

    Masks are appealing because of how the look… and what they tell us about a culture. A young woman who majored in psychology wrote this paper in college. I hope you enjoy it. The Bamana are a large and powerful ethnic group in Mali, West Africa. Both Islamic and traditional religious views are entwined in Bamana culture. The political structure is patrimonial, meaning positions are inherited and handed down through the male side of the family. Political leaders also control the group’s religious arrangement. Adulthood is earned through the process of six major initiation societies, collectively called the jow, which are used as both a religious and educational system. Bamana…