• Misc

    Mummers Parade in Philadelphia

    Though I live close to Philly, I’ve never gone to this important masquerade. The masks and costumes are something everyone should experience. Better yet, the participants and audience (which includes tourists) are having a great time together. A lot of beer is consumed. New friends are made. Great fun! The Mummers Parade is held each New Year’s Day in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It is believed to be the oldest folk festival in the United States. Local clubs (usually called “New Years Associations”) compete in one of four categories (comics, fancies, string bands, and fancy brigades). They prepare elaborate costumes, performance routines, and moveable scenery, which take months to complete. This is…

  • Africa

    African Lulua mask with holes

    Lulua is an umbrella term which refers to a large number of peoples who populate the region near the Lulua River. It is in the Congo basin situated in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The people number 300,000 and live in small regional chiefdoms and in times of crisis elect a common leader. The role of the village chief is to insure juridical, political and social cohesion. The heterogeneous composition of the people and the considerable area they occupy, explain the many stylistic overlappings with their neighbors. The formal and functional diversity of the masks testifies to the region as an ethnic crossroads and sometimes makes it difficult to confirm…

  • Oceania

    Timorese mask

    I’m posting this because I like it so much. Traditional masks that rely mostly  on carving can result in very fine sculptures. There are examples of this in Africa and indigenous cultures around the world, but they are rare compared to masks with color or adornments. Timor is an island in the South Pacific under Sulawesi and the Moluccas. Half of the island is the eastern end of Indonesia. Masks and other tribal arts are still being made there. This one would be old and used for celebrating an ancestor or communicating with spirits. Full disclosure– I am an artist, not an anthropologist.

  • East Asia

    Japanese Noh mask

    There are over 200 characters portrayed in the many Noh plays of Japan. This one could possibly be Ayakashi the supernatural man or Heida the warrior… maybe someone else. Regardless, it’s a very nice mask. All of the eyes in Noh masks stare blankly into space. The ambivalent corners of their mouths leave their moods utterly indiscernible. These wooden masks, used in an ancient form of Japanese theater, were made to be expressionless. But performers are charged with using slight and subtle movements to reveal the hidden emotions carved into each one. Dating back almost 1,000 years, Noh is a style of musical drama with plots ranging from Japanese legends…

  • Africa

    Goli mask from West Africa

    Q: My uncle bought this in Africa in 1969. Sadly, one horn is broken and has a metal staple holding it together. Not sure when it broke, probably years ago. It’s 17 by 10.5 inches. David, 1503 A: Goli masks from the Ivory Coast are a favorite of tourists and collectors. They never represent the ancestors and are always worn by men. Goli is the day-long spectacle that normally involves the whole village and includes the appearance of four pairs of masks, music played on special instruments, and, ideally, the joyous consumption of a great deal of palm wine. Goli can be performed both as an entertainment and for the…

  • Mexico

    Reproduction of pre-Columbian Mexican mask

    Q:  I know very little about this mask. I took it, along with quite a few similar items, from a house my friends bought from an elderly lady being moved into a nursing home. She had no family, so we had the task of cleaning out the house. This mask is 8″ high and 7″ wide. Most of the other decorative items I collected seem to be from the American Southwest. One statue that looks to be from South America has a very old price tag that says $90, and it seems the most similar to this mask, so I thought maybe the mask would have some value. Even if…

  • South America

    Amazon tribal mask

    Q:  I hope that this mask interests you.  It was an eBay purchase for $50 a few months ago.  Interestingly there are pieces of broken glass glued inside the eye holes.  Also the teeth seem to be made from cut off pieces of a saw.  The cape appears to have been made from beaten plant fiber.  The seller was not sure where it came from.  Steven, 1500 A:  The  Amazon rain forest is huge, taking up about half of the continent. There are still a number of indigenous Indians living in the remote areas, though many of the tribes have been killed or assimilated. Yes, I am very interested in…

  • Bali & Java

    Village mask from Java

    Q:  I just bought this mask on Ebay for $45.  I believe that it is from Bali.  What interested me is the leather tab seen on the inside of the mask, possible to be used by a dancer to hold on to it.  I thought you might be interested in the photos.  Thanks,  Deb, 1499 A:  On Feb 16 of this year someone sent in an interesting mask. I answered: “It is from Java, but not old. It is easy to see that this decorative wall-hanging was quickly carved, painted with some nice colors, and then antiqued to make it look old. Antiquing is easy to do with stained varnish…

  • India & Himalayas

    Citipati (Ging) Mask From Tibet

    I believe this is an older Ging mask per the following information I found on the net.  “In the Himalayan Buddhist Cham dances 3 different levels of skull masks & skeleton costumes are used. The lowest level of skeleton dancers are the Ging, boy monks who dance in a basic costume and skull mask. They play a semi-comical character and have no skull diadem and no ear decorations– no adornments of any kind. This can be considered the entry-level of skeleton dancers.”  Dan, 1498 A:  Dan is a very serious collector and I am pleased he is sharing this with us. Study it carefully. This is authentic, old and used…