• Misc

    Muslim masks

    I’m starting with a Marka mask from Mali, a country that is almost entirely Muslim. The second photo is a niqab, something you would expect to see in a Muslim country. Many African countries have a rich tradition of crafted masks. During the seventh century and the beginning of Islam, Muslims migrated to North Africa. They also pushed into territories further south that eventually became the Republic of Sudan, Chad, Niger, Mali, and several others. We know that the Islamic religion has always discouraged masquerade. But many of these African cultures had ancient artistic traditions in mask-making for indigenous celebrations. They made masks that represented spirits and gods. In their…

  • Misc

    The masks of India

    For years I have admired the hundreds of different masks that are used in that big country with so many cultures and traditions. I even put an Indian mask of the cover of our book, Masks of the World. Though India is the second largest country in the world, I have never been able to find a book about Indian masks. The first photo shown here is from the Monpa culture in Arunachal Pradesh. The second is a carved and painted sacred cow from New Delhi, and the third is a Chhau mask from Purulia (also shown on the cover of our book). The largest country in the world is…

  • Indonesia,  Misc

    Topeng prime minister from Bali

    Q: I would like to have your opinion about this wayang topeng mask. Do you think it is original (made to be worn)? Teeth are made of mother of pearl and wood is soft. Thank you, Monica 1554 A: There are several versions of Prime Ministers in the Topeng dance dramas that are performed in Bali. Patih Manis and Patih Keras come to mind, but there are others. Judy Slattum in her well-illustrated book, Masks of Bali, says these characters exhibit cleverness, pride, ambition, and sometimes foolishness. Your carving seems to me to be old, used and in good condition. As usual, you’ve made a good acquisition. A-

  • Misc

    Decorative art– not masks

    Q: I get questions (with three attached scans) almost every day. Most of the time these “mystery masks” are quickly made carvings for the tourist trade that have little artistic value and no ethnographic significance. Often they were from thrift shops. These three are of some value. A: The first one is from someplace in China where they have a group of master carvers who have been making these mask-like sculptures for many years. They are always highly detailed and sometimes have glass eyes. Second is a heavy ceramic wall-hanging from Mexico which resembles a pre-Columbian god. I think it is a handsome piece of decorative art. Unfortunately, the sellers…

  • Misc

    Feathered carnival mask

    Q: My grandmother just passed away and I inherited a framed mask I have always loved. I believe it is from an opera from what I remember her telling me. It was framed by her so there is no way for me to get into it’s case. It is a very large mask. The case is probably 2 feet by 3 feet wide. The mask is made of various sized feathers. I have no interest in selling it but if you could provide any information on it I would greatly appreciate it! Emily, 1521 A: There are some operas that have an act with a ballroom scene. Most masks like…

  • Misc

    Ku Klux Klan mask/hood

    Wikapedia says… “The Ku Klux Klan, commonly called the KKK or the Klan, is an American white supremacist hate group. The Klan has existed in three distinct eras at different points in time during the history of the United States. Each has advocated extremist reactionary positions such as white supremacy, white nationalism, anti-immigration and—especially in later iterations— Nordicism and anti-Catholicism. Historically, the KKK used terrorism, physical assault and murder—against groups or individuals whom they opposed. All three movements have called for the purification of American society and all are considered right-wing extremist organizations. In each era, membership was secret and estimates of the total were highly exaggerated by both friends…

  • India & Himalayas,  Misc

    Sri Lankan Maha Kola mask

    Q: This Sri Lanka “mask” that, as I told you previously, is one of my favorites. At first, thinking it was a tourist item and I didn’t want to post it here. But after some internet research I decided to try as well because I never find another piece so colorful and careful made. I guess it could be vintage or made by an artist. Thank you again for your interest. 30 cm high and half-soft wood. She’s missing a piece on her hands. Monica, 1513 A: Sorry to take so long to post this. We seem to have corrected our computer problems. I’m glad you sent this. Even though…

  • Misc

    Mardi Gras in Louisiana

    Three days ago I wrote about the Mummers parade in Philadelphia. The other famous US masquerade spreads can be found in many parts of Louisiana. The big parade in New Orleans is a famous tourist event. The masks and costumes look a lot like the carnival in Venice. However, there are many smaller parades in the rural areas that are unique. Michael Welsh writes in Acadiana: “Wherever Mardi Gras is celebrated, the mask is key. Behind the best masks, they can’t tell whether you are laughing or crying. They can’t tell how absolutely drunk you are. The mask helps erase consequence. “Riders want folks to say, ‘Well, I didn’t see…

  • Misc

    Mummers Parade in Philadelphia

    Though I live close to Philly, I’ve never gone to this important masquerade. The masks and costumes are something everyone should experience. Better yet, the participants and audience (which includes tourists) are having a great time together. A lot of beer is consumed. New friends are made. Great fun! The Mummers Parade is held each New Year’s Day in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It is believed to be the oldest folk festival in the United States. Local clubs (usually called “New Years Associations”) compete in one of four categories (comics, fancies, string bands, and fancy brigades). They prepare elaborate costumes, performance routines, and moveable scenery, which take months to complete. This is…