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Cleaning of Pieces

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  • GARYGLS2000@aol.com
    Craig s advice to Lori about not cleaning most pieces is correct. However, occasionally an exception comes along. Several years ago I acquired a very old
    Message 1 of 7 , Jul 3, 2005
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      Craig's advice to Lori about not cleaning "most" pieces is correct. However, occasionally an exception comes along. Several years ago I acquired a very old mask from Guinea covered with decades of heavy black grease and dirt. It was difficult to tell whether it was plain wood or wood covered with metal. I took a big chance, violating all the rules about taking care of African art and cleaned it. Much to my surprise, it turned out to be an old metal covered mask with glass mirrors. Pascal Imperato later identified it as an extremely rare Malinke Djankouran Koun mask. These masks are generally made of perishable matrerials such as cloth, leaves or fiber. I've posted the mask  in the "Pictures" section under "GLS." 
       
      Gary
       
    • Craig Lewis
      Hi Gary, I would love to see a before picture if you have one. I don t know if you have devalued the mask by cleaning it, after all I suppose the black
      Message 2 of 7 , Jul 5, 2005
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        Hi Gary,
        I would love to see a "before" picture if you have one.
        I don't know if you have devalued the mask by cleaning it, after all
        I suppose the black grease(or whatever it may have been) would have
        been intentionally put there over the years (??)so some people would
        still have prefered it in its used state.But then I don't know how
        bad it was either.
        I think this is irrellevant to a certain degree because you took a
        step that I wouldn't have been brave enough to do and you have a
        fantastic mask to show for it.
        Cheers
        Craig


        --- In African_Arts@yahoogroups.com, GARYGLS2000@a... wrote:
        > Craig's advice to Lori about not cleaning "most" pieces is correct.
        However, occasionally an exception comes along. Several years ago I
        acquired a very old mask from Guinea covered with decades of heavy
        black grease and dirt. It was difficult to tell whether it was plain
        wood or wood covered with metal. I took a big chance, violating all
        the rules about taking care of African art and cleaned it. Much to my
        surprise, it turned out to be an old metal covered mask with glass
        mirrors. Pascal Imperato later identified it as an extremely rare
        Malinke Djankouran Koun mask. These masks are generally made of
        perishable matrerials such as cloth, leaves or fiber. I've posted the
        mask in the "Pictures" section under "GLS."
        >
        > Gary
      • GARYGLS2000@aol.com
        Craig, the mask was so filthy, broken and grease-covered that my first thought was to give it away rather than try to clean it. I received it in a trade where
        Message 3 of 7 , Jul 5, 2005
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          Craig, the mask was so filthy, broken and grease-covered that my first thought was to give it away rather than try to clean it. I received it in a trade where I had no choice but to accept it in place of a fake piece I had bought by mistake. The black grease was not put on it deliberately. It was the result of generations of neglect. The mask had apparently been stored in the eaves of a roof where it was subjected to smoke and grease from cooking over many many years.
           
          Gary
        • Craig Lewis
          Definately sounds like you did the right thing!! I think you got yourself a great mask, I ve never seen anything quite like it before. Cheers Craig ... first
          Message 4 of 7 , Jul 5, 2005
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            Definately sounds like you did the right thing!!
            I think you got yourself a great mask, I've never seen anything quite
            like it before.
            Cheers
            Craig

            --- In African_Arts@yahoogroups.com, GARYGLS2000@a... wrote:
            > Craig, the mask was so filthy, broken and grease-covered that my
            first
            > thought was to give it away rather than try to clean it. I received
            it in a trade
            > where I had no choice but to accept it in place of a fake piece I
            had bought
            > by mistake. The black grease was not put on it deliberately. It was
            the
            > result of generations of neglect. The mask had apparently been
            stored in the eaves
            > of a roof where it was subjected to smoke and grease from cooking
            over many
            > many years.
            >
            > Gary
          • Rand African Art
            Hi Gary, Thanks for sharing the story about your mask. I guess this indeed is one of the cases where the overall cleaning of a mask gave it great benefit
            Message 5 of 7 , Jul 5, 2005
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              Hi Gary,

              Thanks for sharing the story about your mask. I guess this indeed is one of the cases where the overall cleaning of a mask gave it great benefit instead of doing it great harm.  It went from being stored in a smoky, greasy eave of a house to being displayed in the exhibit in NY with the rest of your collection. It is interesting that you say you received this mask in trade and had no choice but to accept it in place of a fake piece that you bought by mistake. I think that given the mask’s original condition that most people would rather have refused it or had nothing instead of a piece that was covered with grease and dirt the way you described it.

               

              Were you able to obtain any additional information about the mask regarding when it was originally collected, and where? Did you have it professionally restored?

               

              It is an interesting mask though, especially with the protrusions coming out from the top of the mask. I haven’t seen a mask in this style before. The overall style of the mask is “similar” to a lot of the Bamaba and Marka masks of Mali and Burkina Fasso that people are used to seeing. I am not too familiar with the Malinke masks other than the ones that are very similar in appearance to the Bamana Ntomo masks that have the horns coming out of the top and are covered in metal and sometimes have mirrors on them like yours does. They were all in close proximity so I think you see a lot of overlap in styles.

               

              Thanks again for sharing the story and the photo of your mask!

              Cheers!

              RAND



              GARYGLS2000@... wrote:
              Craig, the mask was so filthy, broken and grease-covered that my first thought was to give it away rather than try to clean it. I received it in a trade where I had no choice but to accept it in place of a fake piece I had bought by mistake. The black grease was not put on it deliberately. It was the result of generations of neglect. The mask had apparently been stored in the eaves of a roof where it was subjected to smoke and grease from cooking over many many years.
               
              Gary
            • GARYGLS2000@aol.com
              Rand, I did have my Malinke mask examined several years ago by James Pascal Imperato, an authority on this area of West Africa, and he told me it was a
              Message 6 of 7 , Jul 5, 2005
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                Rand, I did have my Malinke mask examined several years ago by James Pascal Imperato, an authority on this area of West Africa, and he told me it was a "Djankouran Koun" mask and a very rare one. It never had horns protruding from the top. In fact there is a metal strip stapled across the top where horns would normally be on Bambara and Marka masks. Imperato described the iconography of this mask as follows:
                 
                "these masks are said to have "kungfano" (wide heads) which means they have the power to know the past, present and future and supernatural power to detect witches, sorcerers and evil spirits. This attribute to see so wide a range of powers..is materially represented  in the masks by large metal configurations symbolizing eyes. The mask has four such forms...It is important that the symbolic representations of the ability to perceive supernatural forces are placed not on the face but rather on the head which is the seat of knowledge..Ordinary eyes cannot detect what this mask's spirit can and thus the eyes on the face are understated to emphasize this point."
                 
                I haven't had it restored other than to apply wood hardener to the soft areas around the sides. I took it from the seller because, despite its awful appearance, I had a feeling there was something valuable beneath the dirt, grime, and grease.
                 
                Gary 
                -----Original Message-----
                From: Rand African Art <rand@...>
                To: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com
                Sent: Tue, 5 Jul 2005 13:36:49 -0700 (PDT)
                Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Re: Cleaning of Pieces

                Hi Gary,
                Thanks for sharing the story about your mask. I guess this indeed is one of the cases where the overall cleaning of a mask gave it great benefit instead of doing it great harm.  It went from being stored in a smoky, greasy eave of a house to being displayed in the exhibit in NY with the rest of your collection. It is interesting that you say you received this mask in trade and had no choice but to accept it in place of a fake piece that you bought by mistake. I think that given the mask?s original condition that most people would rather have refused it or had nothing instead of a piece that was covered with grease and dirt the way you described it.
                 
                Were you able to obtain any additional information about the mask regarding when it was originally collected, and where? Did you have it professionally restored?
                 
                It is an interesting mask though, especially with the protrusions coming out from the top of the mask. I haven?t seen a mask in this style before. The overall style of the mask is ?similar? to a lot of the Bamaba and Marka masks of Mali and Burkina Fasso that people are used to seeing. I am not too familiar with the Malinke masks other than the ones that are very similar in appearance to the Bamana Ntomo masks that have the horns coming out of the top and are covered in metal and sometimes have mirrors on them like yours does. They were all in close proximity so I think you see a lot of overlap in styles.
                 
                Thanks again for sharing the story and the photo of your mask!
                Cheers!
                RAND


                GARYGLS2000@... wrote:
                Craig, the mask was so filthy, broken and grease-covered that my first thought was to give it away rather than try to clean it. I received it in a trade where I had no choice but to accept it in place of a fake piece I had bought by mistake. The black grease was not put on it deliberately. It was the result of generations of neglect. The mask had apparently been stored in the eaves of a roof where it was subjected to smoke and grease from cooking over many many years.
                 
                Gary


                YAHOO! GROUPS LINKS




              • Rand African Art
                Gary, Thanks for the additional information about the mask, very interesting. Your feeling about something being valuable underneath the dirt and grime proved
                Message 7 of 7 , Jul 6, 2005
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                  Gary,
                   
                  Thanks for the additional information about the mask, very interesting.
                  Your feeling about something being valuable underneath the dirt and grime proved to be a good one!
                   
                  Cheers!
                  RAND

                  GARYGLS2000@... wrote:
                  Rand, I did have my Malinke mask examined several years ago by James Pascal Imperato, an authority on this area of West Africa, and he told me it was a "Djankouran Koun" mask and a very rare one. It never had horns protruding from the top. In fact there is a metal strip stapled across the top where horns would normally be on Bambara and Marka masks. Imperato described the iconography of this mask as follows:
                   
                  "these masks are said to have "kungfano" (wide heads) which means they have the power to know the past, present and future and supernatural power to detect witches, sorcerers and evil spirits. This attribute to see so wide a range of powers..is materially represented  in the masks by large metal configurations symbolizing eyes. The mask has four such forms...It is important that the symbolic representations of the ability to perceive supernatural forces are placed not on the face but rather on the head which is the seat of knowledge..Ordinary eyes cannot detect what this mask's spirit can and thus the eyes on the face are understated to emphasize this point."
                   
                  I haven't had it restored other than to apply wood hardener to the soft areas around the sides. I took it from the seller because, despite its awful appearance, I had a feeling there was something valuable beneath the dirt, grime, and grease.
                   
                  Gary 
                  -----Original Message-----
                  From: Rand African Art <rand@...>
                  To: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com
                  Sent: Tue, 5 Jul 2005 13:36:49 -0700 (PDT)
                  Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Re: Cleaning of Pieces

                  Hi Gary,
                  Thanks for sharing the story about your mask. I guess this indeed is one of the cases where the overall cleaning of a mask gave it great benefit instead of doing it great harm.  It went from being stored in a smoky, greasy eave of a house to being displayed in the exhibit in NY with the rest of your collection. It is interesting that you say you received this mask in trade and had no choice but to accept it in place of a fake piece that you bought by mistake. I think that given the mask?s original condition that most people would rather have refused it or had nothing instead of a piece that was covered with grease and dirt the way you described it.
                   
                  Were you able to obtain any additional information about the mask regarding when it was originally collected, and where? Did you have it professionally restored?
                   
                  It is an interesting mask though, especially with the protrusions coming out from the top of the mask. I haven?t seen a mask in this style before. The overall style of the mask is ?similar? to a lot of the Bamaba and Marka masks of Mali and Burkina Fasso that people are used to seeing. I am not too familiar with the Malinke masks other than the ones that are very similar in appearance to the Bamana Ntomo masks that have the horns coming out of the top and are covered in metal and sometimes have mirrors on them like yours does. They were all in close proximity so I think you see a lot of overlap in styles.
                   
                  Thanks again for sharing the story and the photo of your mask!
                  Cheers!
                  RAND


                  GARYGLS2000@... wrote:
                  Craig, the mask was so filthy, broken and grease-covered that my first thought was to give it away rather than try to clean it. I received it in a trade where I had no choice but to accept it in place of a fake piece I had bought by mistake. The black grease was not put on it deliberately. It was the result of generations of neglect. The mask had apparently been stored in the eaves of a roof where it was subjected to smoke and grease from cooking over many many years.
                   
                  Gary


                  YAHOO! GROUPS LINKS




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