• South America

    Pre-Columbian burial mask

    Q:  Here is a burial masks made of pure gold from the Oro Museo in Bogota, Colombia.  Amy, 1191 A: In the spirit of full disclosure, Amy is one of my beautiful daughter-in-laws. I’m sure she enjoyed her visit to the museum. Burial masks could be found outside of Columbia in some other Central and South American countries before 1492. They are not unusual, and were often made of materials other than precious metals. The museum is one of the most visited tourist highlights in the country. It receives around 500,000 tourists per year. It displays a selection of pre-Columbian gold and other metal alloys. Together with pottery, stone, shell,…

  • South America

    Piaroa animal mask from the Orinoco R.

    Q:  Can you tell me the origin of this mask and an approximate value. Actually, most came from South America, but I know little else.  I live in Miami and and was given these pieces over 20 years ago, and so do not know the provenance.  I can take pictures of all of them should you wish.  I am downsizing my living and won’t have space to keep them displayed.  Bruce, 1177 A:  This mask is from the Piaroa Indians who live in the Orinoco River basin that is on the border between Colombia and Venezuela, in the Northwest part of the Amazon area. There’s also a chance that it…

  • South America

    Sheet metal Devil mask

    Q:  I received this mask as a gift. Want to sell it, but not sure of what to ask for it or where is the best place to sell it.  Cristi, 1169 A:  The Devil mask is the most common character in the famous carnival or Oruro, Bolivia. Called Supay, he represents the Andean pre-Conquest underworld figure that was lord of the hills. When the Spanish priest came his role was changed to that of the Devil. Many Bolivian parade masks are made of sheet metal. This started hundreds of years ago when the silver mines employed most of the Indians. Later, tin mines became important as well. Today metal…

  • South America

    Tukuma initiation mask from the Amazon

    Q:  I have five of what I think are women coming of age ceremonial masks. I would love to get an appraisal. Please let me know how you would like to proceed. Thank you very much for your help!  Nikki, 1164 A:  Thanks for sending the pictures. Instead of paying me for appraising your five Tukuna masks, let’s see if we can get some comments from from our readers. Like the one pictured here, all have descriptions and prices stapled to the bark cloth. This one is priced at $35, the others range up to $85. When were they brought back from the Amazon? If that was in the 1970’s,…

  • South America

    Indian mask from the Amazon

    Q:  Would like to know if you can tell me anything about this mask?  Frank, 1151 A: It is a traditional helmet mask made of natural materials by the Tukuna Indians who can be found in the deep rain forest where Peru, Colombia and Brazil come together. Actually, there are over a 100 sparsely located cultures spread out over a large portion of South America’s Amazon area. Unfortunately, these populations are declining rapidly. There is a book called Arts of the Amazon by Barbara Braun, which will tell you more, and includes many beautiful photos of artifacts, including a number of masks. Frank, we enjoyed seeing your photos and are…

  • South America

    Big time masquerade in Bolivia

    Q:  Can you send us some pics from your trip to Bolivia?  The Mask Man A:  Here are 3 that seem to encapsulate it.  The two clowns are from the infinitely less elaborate La Paz carnival.  They represent the predominant character, Pepino, who is notorious for running around and spraying everyone with canned foam.  The other two show the Oruro carnival. One is a nighttime shot of the “Tobas,” a group representing the Incas who in native revisionist history conquered the invading Spaniards.  Although the group is called Tobas and composed of both men and women, the masked characters themselves (always men) are called “Chunchos” or “Indios Chunchos.”   The third…

  • South America

    Another mask from the Deep South

    I normally post only one mask per person, however the previous South American mask from Paraguay is interesting in comparison to this one. Here we have one from the Mapuche people of south-central Chile. Both indigenous groups survived colonization of lower South America, but they are small populations in comparison to the Indian populations further north, so we don’t get to see their masks very often.  1139 Here is what Dean has to say about this Mapuche mask… Carved, plain, human/spirit; leather hanging thong & for the lips; has a horn tacked onto the  forehead, along with 3 strips & brown  horsehair;  wool for the hair, mustache & goatee. 15…

  • South America

    Indian mask from South America

    Q:  In June I will be donating my Mataco & other art from Argentina, which includes the two fine masks from that region that I got from you.  It might be best for folks if you posted the photo of this mask  because it seems that these plain wood masks are what they are making these days in Paraguay. As I mentioned in my e-mail of today, the Chaco area is the region from which I’ll next be donating my art, which is currently on display in our dining room. I picked for you this mask because it’s pretty rare and interesting.  Dean, 1138 A:  When the Europeans settled in…

  • South America

    Bolivian Devil Mask with Lizard

    Q:  This Bolivian mask represents a character from the Diablada known as a “Maligno” or “Demonio.”  It was made in La Paz, but it was probably used in the Oruro carnival.  It’s composed of linen covered in plaster, then painted.  The details such as the lizard on the head are mostly plaster, but there are solid wood anchors for the horns (which are removable).  The eyes are hand-painted glass, and the front teeth are probably sheep’s teeth.  I’m not sure what the eyelashes are made from.  The mask dates to the 1960s.  Aaron, 1121 A:  Once again Aaron shares with us a fine example of traditional masquerade. This is the…

  • South America

    Indian mask from SE Brazil

    Q:  I’m looking for a mask from the Xingu River region.  I’m not sure what I’m looking for specifically, but I would love to see what there is!   Leah, 1102 A:  There are many Indian cultures in the huge Amazon region of Brazil.  Though I can’t find anything from the Xingu River area, this excellent Karajas piece come from the Araguaia River area in the Matto Grosso lowlands just to the west of the Xingu. It is a tall and elaborately decorated ijasó headdress with grass mask and skirt. They are always made in pairs, and represent spirits called by shamans to visit the Karajás’ villages.  Maybe someone who reads…