• Misc

    Should you buy this mask?

    This is called an Agbogho mmuuo from the Ashanti people of  Ghana, West Africa. Sometimes the sellers of these round carvings will tell you more about their derivation, which goes like this…  “Translating into the Queen of women, this mask represents a wealthy woman of high status.  She personifies strength, beauty, and pride.  It is typically worn during performances at funerals and other ceremonies.  Seeking to illustrate maiden spirits, men dress up in these masks and parade as adolescent girls to exaggerate their features.  Shows including the mimickers are also joined by musicians who chat ‘Mmanwu si n’igwe’ – meaning the masked spirit from the sky and ‘Udemu na lenu’ –…

  • Mexico

    Authentic Mexican masks, fakes & decoratives

    The first mask is called a Parachico and is an authentic Mexican dance mask in the collection of Bryan Stevens who has www.mexicandancemasks.com. Here’s what he has written. “The Parachicos dance is most famously performed in the town of Chiapa de Corzo in the Mexican state of Chiapas. It is said to honor three Catholic saints—Saint Anthony, Our Lord of Esquipulas, and Saint Sabastian. The costumed dancers wear wooden masks with bearded Caucasian faces, they carry handmade tin maracas that are painted silver, and on their heads are headdresses made of woven ixtle (or istle), a fiber obtained from the agave or yucca plant. Their headdresses are decorated with colored…

  • Bali & Java

    Primitive tribal masks from Java

    There are Buddhist-Hindu people farming in the mountains of central and eastern Java that celebrate the classic Topeng dance dramas.  Being in remote areas and without much money, they have learned to make their own character masks. They can be crude and rough, but at the same time, very creative. The colorful one is in poor condition and the the black one with hair has big mirrored eyes. Let me know if you like or dislike these strange Indonesian masks.

  • Africa

    How do I find a mask expert?

    MasksoftheWorld.com is a good place to start. We know something about masquerade all over each of the world’s continents. We also include masks for Halloween, protection, protest, fetishes and more. We deal with everything that goes on the face that is dry rather than viscous. But does that make us experts? No. The real experts specialize in certain continents of the world or specific countries or cultures. These specialists (sometimes called “tribal art dealers”) can tell you way more about a mask than we can… and MOTW does occasionally make mistakes. About 2 weeks ago I confused a water spirit mask from one culture in West Africa with a fire…

  • Africa

    Why have a mask appraised?

    This mask is a Baule Mblo and it comes from Ivory Coast in West Africa. It is obviously of good quality, but is it authentic or a carefully-made reproduction? You can learn more about Baule masks by going to “Africa” in our archive section. Full disclosure, I do mask appraisals, for which I am paid. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, why should you get a mask appraised? Here are some of the reasons people have.    You are pretty sure it is valuable.  How best to sell it?  You want to keep the mask(s) but need to know more.  For what should I insure it?  Is…

  • Misc

    We-Guere Mask from Africa

    Guere Mask from the Ivory Coast can be very frighting. They are worn to terrify their enemy when at war. The Guere share many aspects of culture with the neighboring Dan tribe. They created masks that were used during festivities, funerals, rituals, wars, and that look rather scary and monstrous. The art of Guere people is stylistically connected to the Dan and both groups are often collectively referred to as We, meaning “men who easily forgive.” Like the Dan, the We use a wide variety of masquerades, which hold important regulatory position within their small, egalitarian communities. Masks are owned by families and used by individual lineage members in contexts…

  • Africa

    Mystique of the African Gelede mask

    While the specific meanings and use associated with ritual masks vary widely in different cultures, some traits are common to many African cultures. Ritual and ceremonial masks are an essential feature of the traditional culture of the peoples of a part of Sub-Saharan Africa. Masks used in a traditional context usually have a spiritual and religious meaning and they are used in ritual dances and social and religious events. A special status is attributed to the artists who create masks, and to those that wear them in ceremonies. In many cases, mask-making is an art that is passed on from father to son, along with the knowledge of the symbolic…

  • Guatemala

    Excellent 100 yr-old mask

    Q:  Here is a small mask (6” height) of a “Cristiano”, with interesting moreria burns on the back. On the right side we see  “ɛT”, the mark of Eugenio Tistoj (1855-1930), owner of the well-known moreria in Totonicapán, and on the left side a combination of “ATP”, the mark of Pedro Antonio Tistoj (1912-1978), son of Eugenio Tistoj, owner of the moreria after his father. These marks, together with the beautiful patina, allow to date the mask from the very early XXth century. As Jim Pieper reports in his book “Guatemala’s masks and dramas”, there are presently 2 morerias in Totonicapàn with the name Tistoj, both descendants of Eugenio Tistoj,…

  • Mexico

    Decorative fish mask from Mexico

    Q:  Would love your perspective on “Fish Man,” who joined our family’s collection of Guerrero, Mexico dance masks awhile back. How common are these full trajes and might you know the specific folklore behind this particular character?  Ashley, 1467 A:  The state of Guerrero has about 4 million people, most of whom are indigenous. They all have rich cultures that include many different masked dances. The state also has a large tourist industry which has always made masks for the trade. These decorative masks are very popular in Acapulco and the rest of the world. Most are okay as souvenirs, and a few can be very creative. Yours is the…

  • Africa

    Another water spirit from Nigeria

    Q:  Found at town dump in a small town with old families.  Fred, 1466 A:  I just posted one of these September 26, 2018. It was an old, used example from the Met. Yours is a new one of good quality, possibly meant for use or sale. It has high value because water spirit headdresses from the Ijebu (also spelled Ijaw, Ijo) are hard to find. “Water deities are perceived to be the forces ultimately responsible for individual acquisition of wealth and power. Among the Kalabari, an Ijo subgroup that occupies the eastern part of the delta, one of the most important village institutions is the Ekine society, an association…