|Q: Any information you can provide about my mask is greatly appreciated. I acquired it in the 1980’s on the border of Rwanda and Zaire from a gentleman selling masks door to door. Thank You! Brian, 1044
A: The Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire) is Africa’s largest country and it contains many different cultures over its vast area of forested land. This mask seems to combine the stylistic elements of several of those tribes. Perhaps some of you will disagree, but I think it was made to sell to tourists or for export rather than usage.
Still, it should be desirable to collectors. Recently someone sent in another African mask. I wrote back: Your decorative mask looks like it was inspired by the Igbo people of Southwest Nigeria. But it is not a real mask meant to be used in culture. Rather, it is a wall-hanging made for the tourist and export markets.
He replied: I thought it might be Nigerian based on pictures of other masks I’ve seen. I’m glad it’s not a “real mask.” I prefer to buy masks made for export in order to support local artisans. (He makes a good point!)