• Misc

    Tribal deformity and sickness masks

    Back on July 22, 2017 I received the following email. “As you know, collectors occasionally run into deformity and disease masks. I’d like to hear more about them.  I’d especially be indebted if you started a blog thread on the topic.”  Nate, 1190 The first mask is a Mbangu from the Pende people of the DRC in central Africa.  It represents a hunter who has suffered a stroke from the curse of a local sorcerer. The second is from Sri Lanka and would be used by a village shaman to cure a patient. The third mask shows a poor man with a very large goiter. From Baja Verapaz, Guatemala, it…

  • Mexico

    Pre-Columbian Mexican mask?

    Q:  I have another mystery for you.  This mask was among a group of genuine 1970s dance masks from Mexico. My initial reaction was “tourist mask,” but the more I examined it, the more convinced I became that it’s authentic. The trouble is, I’ve never seen anything like it.  I can’t place the region of Mexico or the type of dance.  Do you have any ideas?  Aaron, 1484 A:  When Aaron < https://www.maskmuseum.org/> sends me an unusual mask it is always a challenge! But before I talk about his mask, take a look at the next mask that is supposed to be from Teotihuacan. “Although it is a subject of…

  • Mexico

    6 Mexican Devil masks

    In my opinion African masks are the most artistic, Japanese the best made, and Mexican the most creative. These 6 Devil masks are all original, and there are hundreds of other Diablos much different from each other as well. Geography and ethnicity both have something to do with this incredible diversity, but I also think Mexicans are more right-brained than the rest of us. Most mask collectors specialize in continents, countries or cultures. Please feel free to argue with me in a comment.  

  • Guatemala

    Unusual Maximon mask from Guatemala

    Q:  Here is a very unusual mask from Guatemala, probably from the 60-70’s. It is said to have been used in the Dance of “Los Viejitos” (Baile Xetones) in San Juan Chamelco, Alta Verapaz. But I do not find any similar masks on the web or in the books. Did you see such a mask before?  Jean,  1482 A:  The seller may be right. But I’m thinking it could be a Maximon (also called San Simon) mask. Most of the Maximon faces we see are the top part of doll-like statues that can range in size from small to the size of an adult man. They are icons placed in an…

  • Unknown

    Mystery Mask Contest

    Q:  I have a wooden hand carved mask. It  is 18H x 12.5W x 11D. It was found in storage auction unit that I won. I only know that previous owner traveled a lot in Asia, Africa and many  islands, and from every place he brought something. Wood masks, sculptures, helmets etc, nothing contemporary but  usually very  old antiques and he furnished his house with expensive furniture, pirate furniture made of wood of sunken ships. This mask is one of the collection. Where is it from? How old could it be and how much could it cost. Please, could you help me with that?  Eva, 1481 A:  Eva hasn’t given…

  • Africa

    Yaka mask from D R Congo, Central Africa

    Dr. Arthur P. Bourgeois says:  “Among the Nkanu, the initiation of young men to manhood is called Nzo Longo. Within this context, Kisokolo masks are distinguished by the two horns of the coiffure and sometimes an upturned nose. Representing a dancing chief with the reputation of a notorious womanizer, the mask dances with another called Makemba, a sorrowful feminine masquerade figure. The upturned nose of Kisokolo may have had a functional role, as initiates at the closing of nzo longo had to eat a piece of manioc bread and goat’s meat from the nose of the mask. Moreover, the full name of the mask is “Kisokolo kudidi mbumba” (“Kisokolo who…

  • Africa

    Pair of Chi Waras from Mali

      This Bamana Chi Wara headdress features a pair of antelope carvings. On March 8th of this year we posted a male version. Now you can see the male and female versions together. This is a high-res photo so blow it up to see the details. A pair of Chi Waras is (arguably) the greatest example of African traditional sculpture. Can you think of anything better? “While there are several versions of this sculpture, the discovery of agriculture is credited to the hero Chi Wara, a half antelope, half human figure born from the union of the sky goddess Mousso Koroni and an earth spirit in the shape of a…

  • East Asia,  India & Himalayas

    Old mask from India or Thailand?

    Q:  This mask has just been restored. It had suffered serious damage in storage. I would be interested to know its origin and its age. The conservator believes it is probably 17/18th century from Thailand, repainted red in the 19th century to bring it “up to date” with the craze for Indian artifacts at that time.   John,  1478 A:  The restoration expert did a good job and could be right about age and location. Please tell me who she/he is. Occasionally I’m asked for a recommendation. The mask is Hindu, but I can’t name the character or god. Also, it may be from India or Nepal… and the age is…

  • Misc

    Korean traditional character mask

    Q:  The mask is roughly 28 by 20 cm. It is wooden and has a black cloth covering and ties at the back. I think it is of Korean origin, but unsure if it’s an  artistic/religious mask or if it depicts a particular character.   Maddie,  1477 A:  Sorry to take so long. I’ve had some problems that took a week to fix. Your red mask is one of the characters in the Yangju Pyeolsandae Nori, the most popular folk dance in all of Korea. There are over 20 other actors in the dance. Many Korean masks are designated as national cultural properties. Yours is no exception and would have been…

  • Africa

    Mossi Plank Mask from Africa

    A wonderful Mossi Yatenga style plank mask from Burkina Faso, this tall, thin mask consists of a white mask, black and brown square mask that matches the length of the horns carved to resemble those of a gazelle and a plank that is covered in black and white pigment. The tall, vertically oriented, plank masks are used by the Mossi in the traditional state of Yatenga have, for decades, been considered the epitome of Mossi sculptural traditions. Masks are owned by a clan descent from the same ancestor and are used in various ceremonies, including initiations, funerals, and annual year-end sacrifices. The masks represent the spirits of familiar animals and…