Q: The raffia material seems authentically darkened by use; there are stains of sweat around the inner side and at the chin; it does not smell of any varnish or recent burning; the patina is even but not too even; the cloth hood at the back fell off some time ago, and was clearly covered with some light blue material; the forehead was covered with blue color stains, too, but was worn away; the dirt on the ‘hair’ seems truly old; the bird on the head has a hole onto which something was attached at some time; the raffia is attached by very corroded nails which do not seem to have been hit by some hammer recently. The holes for wearing were clearly not used, instead, the mask would have been held in place by the hood and the strings. Is it a Mbuya mask of the Pende? The attachment on the mask said that it is from the Vousy of Gabbon and for the ceremony of the children. Chris, 803
A: I’m impressed by how carefully you have described this mask. From what I see in your excellent description and photos, this could indeed be a made-and-used-in-culture artifact. If we could properly identify the origin, it would be quite desirable to all African art collectors. But there lies the problem. When I look at it I see stylistic elements from a number of cultures stretching from Liberia to where the Congo empties into the Atlantic. We need to find out more about this nice-looking piece.