• Africa

    Dan look-a-like

      Q:  Please take a look at my photos and let me know what exactly this is. Thank you so much. I just collect all kinds. I really like the vintage masks.  Debbie, 1797 A:  I think it is a recently made fake mask meant to sell for a lot of money. It has been carefully carved, accessorized and aged… a beautiful piece of decorative art that reminds one of the Dan culture in Ivory Coast and Liberia. Let’s hope it gets a nice home. However, only authentic masks should sell for a lot of money. Carefully made reproductions should sell for less. When artistic originality is introduced, the price…

  • Africa

    Igbo crest mask from Africa

    The Igbo crest mask of the middle Cross River region in Southern Nigeria has an extremely rich and diverse masking tradition that embodies the spirits of tribal ancestors.  The mask projects expressive facial features with white pigment, sensitive eyes, aquiline nose, open mouth showing teeth and an elaborate hairstyle that is one of the most artistic I have seen. Crest masks share stylistic forms of neighboring tribal groups such as the Idoma, Ijo, Isoko, Ibibio and Ekoi.   They were danced in ceremonies for fertility, to cure illness, and at funerals.  

  • Unknown

    Mystery Monkey mask

    There are plenty of monkeys and apes in the world, but try as I may, I can’t identify this guy. It’s realistic, well made and probably authentic. After looking at lots of books, at least an hour on Google, and even asking friends, it is still a mystery to me. Please help by putting you guess in our “comments” box.  Bob, 1795                              

  • Mexico

    You can collect decoratives

    Q:  This mask was acquired by my wife in Mexico City. I am having difficulties discerning it’s origins. She was told it was from Veracruz, but we are unsure.  David, 1796 A:  Masks with bean pod noses have been made for tourists in Mexico for probably 100 years. So have many other unusual masks. These undesireable masks are called decorativas in Spanish. When I started collecting Mexican masks in the 1980’s I was told to avoid decoratives. Only collect authentic masks– those that were danced in the villages. I followed the rules for at least 10 years, but then began noticing how clever many of the decoratives could be. Often…

  • Oceania

    Gourd mask from East Timor

    Q: I am unable to define the possible origin of this mask. Probably East Timor, Flores or the Malukus. Material is calabash, not coconut. Size 22 cm. It belonged to an old collection. Patrick, 1794 A:  Gourds can make excellent masks and are used by cultures in Europe, Asia, Africa, and all of the Americas.  This old example is beautifully done and in excellent condition. Patrick seems to know where it might have come from. I agree with him on East Timor. The are a number of indigenous groups there who do masks with this kind of simple decoration. And there are calabash-type gourds growing in that part of the…

  • Africa

    7th Chewa Mask blog

    I noticed this mask from Zambia on the internet recently. Over the years I’ve posted at least 6 Chewa masks, and they’ve always been much different from each other. The Chewa prefer this to replicating traditional designs as most tribes do. You can access our 6 on the homepage by typing in the word “chewa” and scrolling down. A member of a Bantu-speaking people of Malawi in Zambia, they can be found in Mozambique and Zimbabwe as well.  One key aspect of their traditional religion that has survived colonial and Christian prohibition is the all-male Nyau secret society, which performs traditional rites of passage. Masquerade is practiced a lot, and…

  • Africa

    Bundu mask of Sande Society

      Q:  My father acquired this mask in the early 1940’s. He was in the Navy or working for Pan Am in Liberia. It was WWII. This helmet mask is made from wood 16 1/2 inches tall and the bottom opening is an oval 7 1/2 by 9 1/4 inches. My recollection is that he took it from a dwelling at some risk to himself. I believe it was worn in connection with a woman’s coming of age ceremony/ritual/retreat. My father died in 1995, and I offered to return the mask by contacting a Liberian embassy. They did not reply.  Joanne, 1793 A: You have one of the most collectible…

  • Africa

    The sixth Chewa mask

    The Chewa people in Malawi, SE Africa, make my favorite masks. They are very creative and have a sense of humor. Even better, they are constantly practicing masquerade, which means authentic masks are readily available at affordable prices. You can see and read about five other Chewas on this site. On our front page (1) hit the magnifying glass icon, (2) type “chewa” and (3) hit Enter. Unfortunately, I don’t own the Elvis Presley mask. It’s in the Brooklyn Museum. Malawi is a country rich in the different cultures of its diverse population. One of the most unique and interesting cultural events that attracts a lot of interest from tourists…

  • East Asia

    Old Kitsune mask from Japan

    Kitsune is a mask of a fox. It has meaning in religion and folk tradition. In Japanese culture foxes have a contradictory behavior. They can be good or evil, depending on the situation. Some of the Japanese Kitsune can be used for Noh, Kyōgen, Shinto and Kagura performances. Noh is classical Japanese musical drama based on tales from traditional literature performed since the 14th century. Kyōgen is a form of traditional Japanese comic performance in the theater. It was performed as an intermission between Noh acts. Shinto is an ethnic religion in Japan, and it focuses on ritual practices. Kagura is a type of Shinto theatrical dance. The first Kitsune…

  • Africa

    Baga Simbondel headdress

    Many collectors have never seen Simbondel headdresses. More likely they’ve seen Baga snake headdresses or Baga Nimba shoulder masks. Each of these magnificent sculptures are something you won’t want to miss. Sorry, the three scans are low-res and can’t be enlarged much. The Baga people of West Africa have for centuries produced monumental works despite their small population and history of subjugation. They number no more than 40,000 in all, and live in several groups of villages along a 100-mile stretch of Guinea’s coast. They have never held major political power, and have been subjugated by others, both African and European. Not a people you would think important enough for…