Tribal Art — Masks and Statues

Masks and related rituals are one of the most widespread, archaic, and culturally prominent forms of art throughout the world.

The mask at the top of the page is a large impressive devil ‘diablo’ mask from Guerrero, Mexico. Although a fantastic mask, masterfully carved and painted, I believe that it is most likely a decorative piece and was probably never used in an actual village dance, ritual or celebration. Donald Cordry published a major work on Mexican Masks, many spectacular, but the research on many of the masks is considered problematic today. Many of his finest masks are in museum collections such as in the University of Texas library in Austin and the Arizona State Museum in Tucson.  As an employee of the University of Arizona, I used to visit the Arizona State Museum (on the U of A campus) just to view their Cordry mask collection.

Over time, I will list antique and vintage masks from Africa, New Guinea, Mexico and Guatemala on the site. Ethnographic statues and figurines, primarily from the African continent, will be included with the masks.

Below is an antique dance mask –made from leather, rope, and mirror eyes –dating from around 1914. It was used in a ritualized combat event in the town of Zitlala in Guerrero, Mexico.  (From my collection, not for sale.



Leather 'Tigre' Mask from Zitlala, Mexico

Leather ‘Tigre’ Mask from Zitlala, Mexico


Below is a large wooden tiger mask with pearly white teeth from Guerrero, Mexico. The eyebrows and whiskers are made from javelina bristles, and the eyes are made from mirrors. The wood was coated with a thin layer of gypsum before it was painted. At one time it had fangs, possibly made from javelina tusks, but these were broken and lost over the years of use. This particular mask was ‘danced’ in the 1940s and 1950s. At the back of the mask is a bolted and padded head support, which enables it to be worn comfortably. Many similar pieces have been carved for collectors and the tourist markets in Mexico, and are not used in village dances and events. (From my collection, not for sale.)





Here is a fine antique jaguar mask carved from wood, and used in a ritual in the mountains of Guatemala. Horse hair for the eyebrows and moustache, and glass eyes are added to the bold paints. The mask has been repainted multiple times. (From my collection, not for sale.)



Wooden Jaguar Mask, Guatemala

Wooden Jaguar Mask, Guatemala

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