Africa

The problem with African masks

Q: This mask was recently bought online. I know very little about it, except that it was exhibited at the Allied Arts Association in Richland, Washington in 1953, with an exhibition label on the back. It certainly seems to have age. It is made of a soft and light wood. The chin is rounded as if it was often held on the chin. I would love to know more. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Ryan, 1657

A: If you want to use this impressive 16-inch carving as a decor item, hang it on the wall and tell folks that it looks like an over-sized Dan mask from West Africa that is old. If you are going to re-sell it, be sure you remind the buyer that the 1953 exhibition label may qualify as provenance. However, this artificially-aged souvenir was probably carved just a few years earlier for money.

Once again, I must remind our viewers that tribal masks found in an African village market, a thrift shop back home or on your smart phone, are rarely authentic. Always be suspicious. Buy it because you like its appearance… and don’t pay much! D

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