Caribbean,  South America

Woven Indian mask from Panama

Q: Found this “mask” at a thrift shop for 99 cents. I think it’s a mask, but have no idea of origins, or what it was used for. It is small and is tightly woven and beautifully put together. Any ideas? Mickey, 1664

A: Many of the photos sent to the Mask Man are of masks found in thrift shops. I usually don’t publish them because they are poorly made fakes. Yours is one of the few that deserves being in a good collection… providing it is large enough to be worn. (Small ones are for tourists only and therefore less desirable for collecting.) Either way, yours is a beautiful example of indigenous art and workmanship. I included the second photo because it is displayed on a nice little stand. Even if this one is the small version, it is still worth more than a hundred times what you paid.

This is a toucan bird mask from the Wounaan-Embera Indians of the Darian rain forest between Panama and Columbia. It is hand woven from palm fronds using the coil methods, much like a basket. The dyes are natural, made from bark, leaves, roots and fruits.

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