• Oceania

    Ask the Mask Man or professional appraisal

    Q: Got this from a dealer in Port Moresby. I would like to know its authenticity, value and where/tribe it came from. Old or new? After my answer, John wrote… I am interested in an appraisal, and information on where the mask is from (in Papua New Guinea) whether it is an authentic mask that was used in ceremonies, and whether it is particularly valuable. John, 1575 A: The answers that are posted on this site usually show 3 good photographs of the mystery mask, some interesting background info, and an A, B, C, D evaluation with can roughly suggest its value. An appraisal describes the mask, talks about marketing…

  • Mexico

    Tigre mask from Olinala, Guerrero

    Q: Here I am again. The last time I had a mystery mask, you were stumped. I now have a more obvious one. It’s a Mexican tiger mask witch I paid 37.50 Euros for it. Is it made for the tourists? Height is 25cm. Thank you in advance. Roosje, 1574 A: In Mexico, Tigre means Jaguar. These large cats once occupied the entire country, but are now almost extinct. The Aztecs wore masks like this, and the masks are used in various places for dances and celebrations. In Olinala, Guerrero, they still wear the Tigre masks while dancing down the street carrying bundles of farm produce. This is part of…

  • Africa

    Bamana helmet crest

    Q: Good day Mr Ibold, it is me again and I appreciate your support. Please find attached a mask also collected in the Congo during the 50’s. 70 cm long and covered in (dried) mud. And most certainly weathered. Jan, 1573 A: The only problem with the description is that it implies made in the Congo area. Actually, it was made in Mali, far away in the northwest of Africa. This helmet crest is called a Komo by the Bamana people of Mali and is worn on the masquerader’s head. I think yours is authentic. The most important society for the Bamana was the Komo, whose members were grouped by…

  • East Asia

    Chinese opera mask

    Q: This time I sent you a mask of the Beijing theater. I suppose it may be original because on the back, under the nostrils, I saw a stain that could be caused by the breath. I hope I got it right this time. Monica, 1572 A: You are right. Peking and Beijing opera, are the most dominant form of Chinese opera which combines music, vocal performance, mime, dance and acrobatics. These are performed all over the country. The number of these masks being made is huge. Papier mache opera mask are probably the favorite method performers use as makeup. Since such opera masks are used in representing various human…

  • Africa

    Old We/Guere mask

    Q: This mask was given to my mother, Mary Ellen Goodman, PhD, by one of her professors, the famous anthropologist Clyde Kluckhohn, probably in the late 1930s. I’ve always loved it but don’t know anything about it. Images are shot against an 8.5×11 inch paper for scale. Lanny, 1571 A: This is probably an old We Guere Mask from the people of Cote d’Ivoire. If it was found in a thrift shop or on eBay, I would dismiss it as a cheap tourist mask. But because of the family provenance, I think we should look at it more closely. The size and wood seems right. None of the surfaces are…

  • 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…

  • Indonesia

    Classic Javanese dance mask

    Q: I have an interesting mask to show you that I believe comes from Indonesia. I got it in a trade with another collector. It has some patina and sign of usage. Steve, 1569 A: Thanks for the improved photos. Your masks is from Java and represents a common character in their traditional dance dramas. Unfortunately, I still can’t be sure if it was used or artificially aged. Maybe one of our viewers will comment on that. Look at the beautiful colors that go so well with the classic yellow. Plus, the carving is skillfully done and almost paper thin. Weather it’s a repro or the real deal, I think…

  • Africa

    Mwaash aMbooy Kuba mask

    Q: Please find attached a Kuba mask, also collected by father in the 50’s. Exceptionally well made both in terms of craftsmanship and artistic symmetry. Facial cover made of iron plate. Height 62cm and width at base 45cm. It has been worn, but not much. Jan, 1568 A: Rarely does the Mask Man get to see high quality artifacts in his mail. Of course, elaborately beaded Kuba masks are popular with collectors and you can easily find them on the internet. But they won’t be quite as nice as this one. Please increase the size of these photos to appreciate the detail. The Kuba Kingdom, also known as the Kingdom…

  • Africa

    Interesting fake from Cameroon, or authentic mask from Angola

    Q: Hi, thank you for your help. I have this mask and can not find another one like it. What can you tell me! I have an excess of masks, and am trying to sell some of them. Diane, 1567 A: I haven’t seen one quite like this. A good guess is that it was made somewhere in Cameroon to look like an old and used Ekoi helmet mask. They are often of carved wood covered with animal skin and painted. The overall structure is of stiff basketry. If you try to sell it I hope you resist calling it an authentic Ekoi mask. It is instead a quickly made…

  • 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,…