• Mexico

    Mask worn on waist

            Q:  Here are the Mexican masks I’ve photographed and cataloged so far. I have many more to do.  Pick any one you want.  Kevin, 1800 A:  I’ll but pick the most unusual one. It is a newly made decorative from Guerrero, Mexico. Some of the dancers in that state impersonate St. James, fish, mermaids, or horses that they wear around their waists as if they’re riding them. Though these strange masks are popular with tourists and mask collectors now, they’ve been danced in Guerrero for hundreds of years.  This one would never be danced. Only a tourist will buy one with the tail of a mermaid…

  • Native America

    Traditional native American mask

    Q:  Hi there. My grandma has recently passed on. When I was growing up she had these creepy ass masks hanging in her one hallway. Well, I’m not sure if I would never forget them, but she  left me all the masks in her will. No origin or any other info, she just said Erienne gets her favorite wall hangings (the masks). I was wondering if you could tell me anything about them, ie. orgin, worth, etc.  1799 A:  For thousands of years Native American carvers have been making colorful masks for traditional dances and other ceremonies. Nowadays they are also made for collectors. It a shame you find them…

  • India & Himalayas

    Large, old Nepali mask

    Q:  Acquired this mask in Kerala, India, in the back warehouse of an antiques dealer. I found it highly unusual, as it features 2 Bhairavs (the wrathful manifestation of  Shiva ) topped with a carving of the Goddess Kali. I’ve seen many Bhairav masks, as well as double or triple Bhairav masks, but never with Kali at the crown. Undoubtedly Nepali, though I am unsure of the full meaning behind this combination. When I found it it was grey, but after some cleaning it revealed the two lower Bhairavs were red and blue. It is a large mask, measuring 30”  X  16”  X 7” deep.  David, 1798 A:  Thank you…

  • 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…