• South America

    Is this a Brazilian mask?

    Q:  I wondered if you might be able to assist with sourcing a 20th Century Kamayura mask? My client was hoping to purchase a mask that looks exactly like the attached which is currently on exhibition in the Montreal Museum. I wondered if you might have any insight as to who might sell these Brazilian masks or if you might know of anyone who would create a custom mask?  Any feedback or help is much appreciated!  Antonia, 1437 A:  I know about the Kamayura Indians who live around the Xingu River in the Amazon region of Brazil. The mask shown here could be from them, but I haven’t seen anything…

  • South America

    This is a South American mask

    Q:  This mask was advertised on eBay as Mexican, but at 7 1/2″ wide & 11 1/2″ long, it is larger than most Mexican masks and made of a heavier wood.  Maybe it’s a Latin American carnival mask or even an African mask.  It fits the face perfectly but has no holes on the side to secure it to the face.  I paid about $160.  The paint looks vintage.  Alicia, 1433 A:  Your mask is from Ecuador. The hard wood and large, round eye holes make them easy to identify. It is made by the Quechua speaking Indians who live in the northern most parts of the Andes. This one…

  • South America

    Chilean Indian mask

    Masks of various materials have been used by the Mapuche people for centuries. Numerous stone masks have been excavated from archaeological sites in and around Mapuche lands and can be presumed to be precursors to the Mapuche masks of wood and other materials made more recently. The stone pieces are believed to have been burial masks, but masks of wood, leather, and possibly silver are still used today in various ceremonial contexts. Small maskettes are sometimes employed by the machi in performing healing rituals. The Mapuche successfully resisted many attempts by the Inca Empire to subjugate them, despite the lack of nationwide organization. They fought against the Spaniards for over…

  • South America

    Kobeua Indian body mask from Amazon

    Here is one of my favorite masks from the huge Amazon basin. It is old and used, but you can still find newer ones that are more colorful and have arms that are longer and more colorful. Made of bark cloth and raffia, they are meant to cover the full body. This costume plays an important role in the Kobeua’s initiation ceremony. Indians were among the first to come into contact with the European colonists when they landed in Brazil in 1500. The indigenous population was largely killed by European diseases, declining from a pre-Columbian high of millions to some 300,000  grouped into 200 tribes. However, the number could be…

  • South America

    Ecuadorian monkey mask

    Q:  Thanks so much for the write up about my mask. I don’t know anything about this subject, so it is so cool to learn more about it! Here are the attached photos of the other two masks I found at Goodwill. One looks like an elephant and isn’t nearly as detailed as the other. The other one looks to me like a monkey, and now that I am looking at it I think it might be some sort of plaster, not wood.  Kelley, 1395 A:  I don’t normally do a second mask from the same person. Summer is slow and this monkey mask is nicely done in a traditional…

  • South America

    Peruvian Diablo mask

    Q:  I believe this devil mask is from Brazil.  I inherited my friends’ home, and found this and two other masks; my friends had lived in Brazil about 20-30 years ago.  The mask is approximately 15” tall and appears to be papier-mâché, though I’m not sure (one of the horns is soft).  It looks like some images I’ve seen online of the Carnaval de Oruro.  Can you tell me more about it and approximate worth?  Carol, 1389 A:  Not Brazil, but over their western border in Peru. Oruro is in Bolivia where the masks are similar in style. It has not been used. Large and very traditional, I think most…

  • South America

    2000-yr-old mask from Argentina

    I don’t think any of our viewers could afford an ancient mask like this, but I hope some of you enjoy seeing it as much as I did. Made between 100BC and 250AD by the Alamito tribe of north-western Argentina was recently in the news. It’s smooth, grey-quartz face has a sloping rudder of a nose and five holes: two for the eyes, one for a mouth puckered in confusion, and two at the sides to allow the masks to be tied around the head. It was priced at $135,174. This wasn’t a record. Two years ago a Baule Goli mask fetched $1.4m at Christies (it once belonged to Picasso).

  • South America

    Amazon Indian mask

    Q:   This mask measures 10″ high by 7″wide.  A tag inside says it is from Columbia.  An interesting feature is that the wooden ears are tied to the back of the natural  fiber covering, and they extend out when worn.  I got this one on eBay for $35 last winter.  Thank you for any comment.    Alfredo, 1327 A:  Colombia extends into the northwest part of the huge Amazon basin. According to Barbara Braun in the Arts of the Amazon, there are at least seven native cultures occupying this area. My guess would be the Guahibo people made it. What Alfredo thinks are ears could also be teeth or horns.…

  • South America

    Wari burial mask from Peru

    This type of reddish burial mask was made about 700 AD. It would be from the Wari people. Masks from a mummy of this preColumbian culture in Peru are sometimes found in tombs around Lima’s Huaca Pucllana. The weather is very dry there and these old wooden masks hold up well. Their red color can be much brighter. The eyes are dark, flat stones on white shells. Like ancient Egypt, burial masks were used in upper-class funerals before the Spanish took over in South America and Mexico. Death masks are used by Christians as well.

  • South America

    Indian cloth mask from Ecuador

      Q:  What is this?  Chris, 1318 A:  It’s a cloth sack with another face on the back so the dancer can never be surprised by the Devil in the Inti Rymi ceremony. Not your typical mask. They’re used by the Quechua people who live in the Northern Andes of Ecuador. These are not as common as carved wood masks, but they are used even today. You can see one of these on page 161 of Masks of the World by Ibold and Yohn. Extras are sold to tourists… and for a reasonable price.  A-