• Mexico,  South America

    Pre-Columbian masks & statues

    Q: My fiance just found in his 24 yr old Arizona storage unit what he termed a pre-Columbian figurine that shows the back was broken off some other clay object. He said “it’s the real deal”. It is 3-inches tall. Wondered if I send you pix if you could shed some more light on the authenticity and possible age? Pam, 1642 A: Small fired-clay masks and other sculptural fragments have been turning up at various parts of Meso-America for 100s of years. Often attractive, they can also be of archaeological interest. Eventually some of the skillful locals found they could easily replicate these artifacts and sell them to the rich…

  • South America

    3 more Tukuma masks from Amazon

    Q: Thank you for taking the time to take a look at these items. There are 3 figures. Each measure to approx 52 inches in total length. My grandfather acquired them in the Brazilian Amazon maybe 10 years ago. He got them directly from an indigenous tribe when he was on a excursion up through the Rio Negro with my brother. I don’t know the name of the tribe, however, after doing some research I was thinking maybe Tikuna? He told me that they were guardians against cannibals, but he could have made that up. He was quite the story teller. Let me know what you think. I’d love any…

  • South America

    Tukuna mask from NE Amazon region

    Q: I have several masks that we collected while on an expedition in the Amazon during 1970’s. What tribe is this from and is it of any value? I do not collect masks, but I have several that I wish to sell or donate to museum. Sharon, 1626 A: Your mask is the most beautiful “crowned” Tukuna mask I have ever seen. The face is expertly carved, the round ears are cool, and the bark-cloth mantle is handsome. Also, it is still in excellent condition. The first time I saw one was about 40 years ago and I thought that an evangelical missionary probably gave them the idea for a…

  • South America

    Modern Amazon Indian mask

    Q: I’m really just interested in the mask details as it’s really cool but heavily damaged. There really is no side as the mask is flat so I did a wide front, tight front and back. The hood appears to be very tightly woven burlap of some kind; possibly two or more layers of weave pressed together. I believe the mask is a very low temperature clay of some kind as it’s fairly brittle. There may be hairs in the clay. The clay appears to be coated with at least one layer of base coat before being painted over; possibly for smoothing or structure or simply color. There is a…

  • South America

    Amazon animal mask

    Q: My wife and I picked up this mask while in Ciudad Bolivar. While flying in to see Angel Falls we bought lots of things (not the drug kit). Recently the mask flaked and I am trying to figure out what to do. We where told that the black paint is actually bee’s wax. We really are not going to sell the mask. Any ideas? Randy, 1594 A: Your photo represents some kind of wild animal indigenous to southern Colombia or Venezuela (maybe an owl monkey or skunk). The particular Amazon Indian tribe who dance this style of mask for religious purposes are called the Piaroa-Huarime. It is made of…

  • South America

    Metal monkey mask from Bolivia

    Q: Bob, thought you might enjoy this Bolivian mask I picked up a while back for $90 online. It’s painted tin, as many of the Bolivian carnival masks are, but it’s an unusual monkey form that I’ve never seen before. Dan, 1570 A: Bolivian celebrations feature all kinds of masks. Probably the condor is their most common animal mask, and for almost 50 years of collecting I have seen others. Masks are an essential part of Bolivian celebrations, allowing dancers to adopt the personalities which populate the country’s myths and legends. Demons, dragons and angels join representations of real-world creatures like birds, bears and beavers. Most interesting are the masks…

  • South America

    Mama Negra mask from Ecuador

    The Quechua-speaking people who live in the mountainous regions of Ecuador are enthusiastic users of masquerade. Their well carved and painted masks can be easily recognized because of round eye holes and heavy hardwood. There are many different dances and even more characters. Mama Negra is one of the most famous. This example appears to be old, used, and has more detail than most. Each year in November, the city of Latacunga, Ecuador celebrates Mama Negra, a figure of national fame. The festival and parade originated in 1742 when local residents turned to the Virgin of Merced to save them from a possible eruption of the nearby Cotopaxi Volcano. Today,…

  • South America

    South American Indian mask

    Q: Appreciate any idea of value and tribe that hand-carved this mask. I believe it is from southern Colombia. I was told several years ago they were done by a rare tribe near the Amazon region but I don’t know if that’s true. Sally, 1524 A: I have seen very few of these masks. Back on March 31, 2017, I posted #1138, which is quite similar to Sally’s. It was my understanding that these unpainted carved-wooden mask probably came from a tribe below the southern border of the Amazon such as the Chaco, Guarani or other small cultures close to Northern Argentina. I wonder if they are painted for actual…

  • South America

    Amazon tribal mask

    Q:  I hope that this mask interests you.  It was an eBay purchase for $50 a few months ago.  Interestingly there are pieces of broken glass glued inside the eye holes.  Also the teeth seem to be made from cut off pieces of a saw.  The cape appears to have been made from beaten plant fiber.  The seller was not sure where it came from.  Steven, 1500 A:  The  Amazon rain forest is huge, taking up about half of the continent. There are still a number of indigenous Indians living in the remote areas, though many of the tribes have been killed or assimilated. Yes, I am very interested in…

  • 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…