Q: Mask with crude carving, 24.5 x 15 cm, with darkened surface, I do not know what kind of wood. I bought this mask from a man who had bought in Nepal many years ago. I was told this was a Tamang dance mask from Nepal. I would like to have your opinion on its origin, authenticity and age. It would also be very interesting to know more about its symbolic meaning and use.
A: The Tamang, one of several ethnic groups living in the Himalayan regions of Nepal, practice Tibetan Buddhism and are known to produce primitive looking masks such as this for use in shamanistic rituals. Usually carved out of hardwood, they are stored in the rafters of the dwelling and exposed to smoke and grease. Over the years they can develop a patina that is very rich. This one is missing that patina. Primitive masks are also made for sale to tourists in Katmandu and yours probably falls into that category. B