• Oceania

    25-in Ramu mask from PNG

    Q: Bought on ebay as Ramu ancestral mask for 225USD. It could be also from the Lower/Middle Sepik River area of Papua New Guinea. Seller claimed that it was collected in the 1970s. Wood, natural fibres, very worn off cassowary feathers and a couple of tips from what it appears to be bore tasks used as a decoration of the cheeks. 64 cm tall. Vesselin, 1618 A: I think it looks good and may be authentic. Check it carefully to see if carved with natural tools or steel. There were still a few areas in PNG not visited by Westerners in the 1970’s. Or it could be an excellent reproduction.…

  • Africa

    Bemba helmet mask

    Q: I recently acquired a mask from Bukavu, DRC. I’m told it’s a Bemba mask from the Uvira region. I was wondering if I could send you a photo to take a look to see if you might have more information on its quality and use. I’ve been told its quite old. It’s a helmeted mask with a carved face on four sides. It comes to a single wooden cylinder at the top and along the base it looks like there may be holes for a longer dress of grass or material. Matt, 1617 A: You a correct on culture and location. Here is some info I found on the…

  • Africa

    Don’t be afraid of African masks

    This is one of my favorite African masks. It is a Ngil from Gabon or Cameroon, wood colored with kaolin, by the Fang people, and from the Ethnological Museum of Berlin, Germany. Worn with full costume in a night masquerade to settle disputes and quell misbehavior, it is a sight to behold. African masks are the largest category of masks and the most popular. But many people worry about their authenticity. This has always been a problem. Today I googled “authentic African masks” and found that about 95% ranged from cheap tourist fakes to well made reproductions. African masks are often sold for more than their true value. But we…

  • Africa

    Mystery mask from the DRC

    Q: I happened to be in Paris during the annual international tribal art fair Parcours des Mondes (https://www.parcours-des-mondes.com). As such, we spent a few hours one afternoon hopping in and out of 2-3 dozen ethnographic art dealers, and I was quickly exposed to a wide variety of African masks, many of which were too expensive for the average collector due to their provenance and condition (e.g. Dan masks in the €8,000-€10,000 range). Although ethnographic art is new to me, I have been involved in numismatics and more recently ancient antiquities so I can understand how some of these pieces fetch large sums. That being said, these masks were far outside…

  • Mexico

    Huave deer mask from Oaxaca, Mexico

    Q: From the lot of masks I recently bought the following one seems to me Guatemalan, but I am not sure. Material: a heavy wood and 2 pieces of fur attached to forehead and chin. In my opinion (coming from a hunter’s family) it is deer skin. The mask’s size is quite large: 14.6” x 8.3” (37 x 21 cm). The traces of paint over a white grounding are soot black, also some white and maybe traces of red (on the nose, cheeks, lips and eyebrows). The wood is very worm eaten and a part of the side rim has unfortunately broken apart, while the skin is rather hardened and…

  • Africa

    Kuba masks from Central Africa

    Q: Thanks so much for providing this service! It’s awesome for folks new to this (like me). I picked this helmet mask up in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. I was told that it was a Congolese Kuba funeral mask. It’s size is Height: 17 inches, Width: 12 Inches and Depth: 13 inches. It has no eye holes. I paid USD 365 purely because I really liked it. Grateful for your thoughts. Either way, I love it and also picked up another mask there that i think is also Congolese. Scott, 1614 A: “The term Kuba refers to a group of closely related peoples with rich art traditions. They have over twenty…

  • India & Himalayas

    Just two more Indian masks

    Yes, I am upset by the dearth of information on Indian masks. I promise to stop posting them unless they are sent in by a viewer. You probably won’t see many from India in the future. The first mask here was marked as coming from Arunachal Pradesh, without any additional info. There was nothing about the second one. If some of my viewers would take the time to research this subject, it would be nice to get a comment. 1612

  • Africa

    Contemporary mask from Africa’s DRC

    Q: This is a very recent purchase. It looks old, but of course we can’t tell anything for sure, however it looks very different to me. The tattered white cloth over the back is 12″ long, the red cloth is 24″ long. I paid $75 dollars for it. Deb, 1613 A: As a collector who does not specialize in African masks, I will foolishly guess this is a recently made (and possibly used) artifact from the Mbala people of north-western Democratic Republic of Congo. But I hope we get some help from one of our regular visitors who knows more about African masks than I do. Let’s watch for a…

  • India & Himalayas

    Mystery mask. From India?

    Q: I came across an unusual mask described as 19th Century Tibetan Polychrome Wooden and Cloth Wrapped Mask. Not sure of its origin and background. My first criteria is masks from places I visited in order to “feel” the circumstances to which they are attached, and then the closest possible to its use (that means used masks or made by local artisans). I have 62 masks from 14 countries of the 48 that I have visited, even though some of them do not have mask traditions. Any info that you can provide? Joao, 1611 A: I suspect this mask is from somewhere in the huge country of India or perhaps…

  • Mexico

    Mexican masks are very collectible

    Here we have a wonderful mask that can be purchased for a fair price. It was made and used by the Tocotin people for the dance of the Moors and Christians in the Papantla region of Veracruz, Mexico. It is of carved wood and from the mid-20th century. The measurements are 8 1/2” h. x 7” w. x 5” d. My purpose is to help people better understand ethnographic masks and to encourage collecting this amazing folk art from around the world. I am not in the business of promoting sales any more, so you’ll have to find this vendor with the aid of Google. 1610 A