Mid-20th Century African Mask & Fetishes
Appraised Value: $1,690 - $2,250
IMAGE: 1 of 5
Appraisal Video: (3:25)
Antiques Appraiser and Consultant
GUEST: Uh, back in the mid '70s my wife and I were in the Peace Corps in Zaire, which is now the, uh, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and I taught biology there for a couple of years.
APPRAISER: Tell me what you know about these pieces.
GUEST: Well, the standing figures, we believe, might be BaLuba, and, uh, the mask we think is Chokwe.
APPRAISER: Okay, the area where these come from, this piece, and this one and this one, these are actually Songye. You were in the Luba region, which is just south. And this piece here is a Chokwe mask. And as you know, the Chokwe is primarily in Angola, although part of the Chokwe are in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Now, I knew right away that you were in the DRC in... in the '70s, because we don't say "BaLuba" or "BaSongye." It's just "Luba" now and "Songye." Now... the important thing when you're looking at African art is to understand how they're used. Now, these are fetishes, and these fetishes would be held. So what you want to see is you want to see a surface that indicates they've been held. Now, if you look very carefully up here in the forehead and up on the top, down here and down on the hands, you can see the beginning of a surface. The same thing is true of this piece over here. Now, this one is totally rubbed all over. The patina is completely consistent. We know right away this is a fake. This is not the way a surface is gained by handling. They're made for sale. These two are... are late, but they're real. Now, let's look at the Chokwe mask. If we turn it around on the back, you can see that, again, where you'd expect to see wear from cheeks and chins and noses and foreheads, really doesn't exist on this mask. And if we turn it back around, the next thing we look for is the stylistic quality of the mask. This piece is aberrant. The mouth is a little bit strange, so this piece, in my judgment, is right on the cusp of being authentic or being fake. You were there in 1975. All of these pieces really date within 20 years of when you there. So these would be mid 20th century. And what's interesting about the dating is that at... at that particular late time in African art, it could've been made for sale or it could've been made for use. So you have two real pieces. You have one that's right on the cusp and one that's definitely not.
GUEST: Really. Well, I only paid about, uh, probably less than ten dollars for all of them together, so...
APPRAISER: Oscar, things are looking up for you. This piece over here is $750 to $1,000. This is a classic Songye fetish-- what they call a power figure or fetish. And they are used in everything from purifying water to protecting an entire village. This one here also is $750 to $1,000. This one is $40 to $50.
GUEST: That was my favorite, too.
APPRAISER: I know it. I'm sorry. And the Chokwe mask here, because it's on the cusp, it's going to be $150, $200.
GUEST: That's funny-- that little guy-- that's the one I thought was real.
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