Africa

Suku helmet mask from Africa

Q: We’ve had this mask since the early 90s. At the time a college friend worked for a woman (whose parents had been in Africa for many years) who had an African imports and artifacts store here in Minneapolis. I photographed the artifacts for her and she gave us the mask. Sporadic web searches over the years have yielded no useful results. At this point I would simply like to know if it appears likely to merit an appraisal. Drew, 1559

A: Suku, also called Basuku, people of southwestern Congo (Kinshasa) and northwestern Angola. They speak a Bantu language of the Niger-Congo group of languages. Suku women cultivate cassava (yuca) as the staple crop, and men hunt. The fundamental social unit is the matrilineage, a corporate group based on descent in the female line. A son, however, lives in a compound near that of his father. Houses are rectangular and covered with thatch. In the traditional political system the Suku king delegated power to regional chiefs, who in turn had authority over local chiefs. Britanica.com

I think this is what your mystery mask is supposed to be. Since it was made to be a cheap tourist mask, it could come from many parts of Africa. Masks that are quickly carved are sometimes too crude to identify easily. Often most of the time spent on tourist masks is making them look old and used.

Having said this, I hope one of our collectors of African masks will confirm or tell us something different. I sometimes need help in determining authenticity.

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