Q: I’m doing some research for an elderly friend on some masks she bought in Southeast Asia in the early 1980s. She was particularly interested in the Iban people of Borneo. Some of the masks are quite nice, but this one and another like it, confuse me. They’re both about 24x15x10cm and seem to be carved of ironwood. The weight and the fact that neither have eye or mouth holes make me wonder if they were ever designed for use. Thanks so much for your advice! Sarah, 738
A: I like the way this mask looks, but I can’t pin it down to a particular culture because it is unfamiliar. It is a bit too small to fit on a face, so it may have been made for display or sale to tourists. Let’s start with Malaysia, Sarawak and the whole Kalimantan because those are the areas that your friend was interested in. You could do some Google Image searches, and perhaps you’ll get some help from one of our viewers. It’s a nice looking old mask and worth a little research.