|Q: Got a lot of old and nice stuff from my father… I found an old African mask from the area of Gabon that’s about a hundred years old. This information is from an expert settled in Vienna, Austria, Dr Erwin Melchardt. I would like to sell the mask to a collector. Moe, 1074
A: I’m not an expert on any of the many cultures around the world that practice masquerade. All I can tell you about this object covered with black paint and white kaolin is that it reminds me of some masks I have seen from West-Central Africa including the Punu in Cameroon, the Yombe in the DRC, and the Vuvi or Kwele in Gabon. On my search I was especially looking for one with a bird beak coming out of its upper lip. That I never found. I wonder if one of our dear readers has seen such a mask? It does look old to me, but like the previous blog shows, it is difficult to determine true age when there are so many excellent reproductions being made that have been so carefully aged to look old and used.
Definitely a fantasy piece, certainly not older than 20 years. A mixture of Ogoni and Vuvi styles, not an authentic piece.
I appreciate your honestly. American and European collectors have difficulty accepting the importance of reproductions to the African economy. As a collector, I like repros. I can afford them!
The quality of carving can be high but the tourist art industry is largely based on mis-labelling new pieces
As ancient, and tricking the inexperienced buyer onto spending more than it’s worth