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1539Re: [African_Arts] Please help ID this mask

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  • Bob Ibold
    Oct 12, 2006
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      Hi Eric,
      Neither could I identify it. Though I'm not an expert on any particular culture, my knowledge of masks in general is pretty good. If you ever get another Mystery Mask, please give me a second chance.

      Best regards, Bob Ibold

      At 08:34 PM 10/11/2006, you wrote:

      Thanks Paul, William, Lee,
      I am still trying to find as much as I can on this mystery mask.
      I know one thing, I loved this mask from the time that I saw it and then I got it, even that it is an item not found in any tribal literature, books, etc.
      I guess my philosophy is: if you like it, get it.
      Thank you all for an effort to help me ID this item, I am not giving up on it.
      I think tribal art is well documented-identified in the books as prior to 1950.
      Do any one have any information, if there have been studies/research done on the more modern tribal trends/changes, influence from outside sources on the culture of old tribal societies.

      LRubinstein@... wrote:
      Firstly, thanks to Paul and William for sharing their impressions in response to the image of the mask which you posted.
      I, too, am mystified by the possible origins of this mask and find little (i.e., nothing) to support the idea that it hails from the Bongo or any other Sudanese group.  I have searched about for related masks forms from as far north as Sudan southward all the way into Swaziland and haven't come across any related examples.  The use of bold painted coloration seems to be not particularly common in this broad swathe of geography.  My inclination is to search somewhat more eastward and more fully southward -- among masking traditions where bold coloration such as that of your mask is found -- perhaps in Zambia, Malawi, or Zimbabwe...perhaps as far south as Botswana or Swaziland.  Particularly worth considering is the possible introduction of more southerly influences into the region -- particularly in Zambia -- by the northward migration of Ngoni, Tsonga, Ila and other groups fleeing Zulu domination in southern Africa.  Just a thought.
      And another thought:
      Applied beadwork is used more frequently than paint in adding coloration to masks and, more commonly, other objects  of adornment from Eastern Africa as well as Southern Africa.  In addition to the broad selection of beaded garments and accessories found throughout the region, colored beads have been used in the creation of masks by Iraqw (Mbulu District, Arusha region of Tanzania), Makonde and Tabwa peoples in the region whence cometh your mask, although I don't see any real similarity or relationship between objects from these traditions and the mask presented.  So, all I can offer are these most general observations at the present time.
      One additional thought I would like to share for now is this:  Upon initial consideration of your mask, it appeared to me as a "highly abstract" representation.  However, when I came upon the image of the mask below, I was struck by the similarity of the line patterns -- under the eye, on the cheeks and on the forehead -- on your mask and those on this more "realistic mask" from Botswana:
      Source:  http://www.photostogo.com/store/Chubby.asp?ImageNumber=483672&dept_id=101
      I am not suggesting a direct relationship between the masks but I was struck by the fact that the lined patterns which appear on both masks are remarkably similar, suggesting that they are rather different approaches to portraying the lines that appear on a face -- one through a more literal portrayal and one through the use of color and geometry.  Such lines tend to become more prominent in individuals of more advanced age, so an association with elders may be a helpful clue in seeking origins and possible significance for your mask. 
      I may be well off the mark with regard to any or all of these thoughts, but this is what I can offer you at this time.  I'll add your mask to my ever-growing list of "anomalous and unidentified" forms. 
      Thanks for sharing the mask.  Lee

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