Kuba "Bwoom" Helmet Mask, ca. 1900

Value (2014) | $4,000 Auction$6,000 Auction
Watch  

GUEST:
I got it from my father, who got it from my grandfather, who got it from a friend of my great-grandfather's.

APPRAISER:
What was your first memory of this?

GUEST:
Running around with it on my head in the living room.

APPRAISER:
You played with it as a kid?

GUEST:
Oh, yeah.

APPRAISER:
What do you think it is?

GUEST:
Well, I know it's from Rwanda and that it's a fertility mask. And that's about it.

APPRAISER:
And so you were wondering... the fertility thing kind of surprised you, didn't it?

GUEST:
Yeah, I don't see how that's conducive, but...

APPRAISER:
Why this would get somebody in the mood? (both laughing) First of all, it's not from Rwanda. It's from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. And the piece is from the Kuba tribe. That's K-U-B-A. And it's located sort of in the south central part of the country. This is one of three masks, major masks, that the Kuba use to sort of reenact ceremonies. And they do these sections about controlling power. And this represents the common man. So this is the mask that speaks for the little guy. The other two masks are buried with the owners. This mask is passed on. We find that these sometimes are a bit older. And I want you to look at the surface. We have a wonderful patine here on the lips, on the edges of the nose. The inside has a really nice surface on it. So when we look for indications of use, this certainly has it. So we have great collection history, we know the function of it, we have a great surface. So this is definitely an old and fine mask. I think it's clearly a late 19th century... at the very latest, 1900. But I think it's a late 19th century mask.

GUEST:
I was also wondering, what kind of, like, hide is this? And is this human hair?

APPRAISER:
Yeah, this is... None of these parts on this are problematic. This is monkey, this is probably monkey. These are seeds down here, and these are trade beads. We have a carved wooden structure, a carved wooden helmet mask, and over that we have applied copper. We have this sort of natural fabric and cowry shells, and then this sort of natural fiber and cowry shells down here. What do you think it's worth?

GUEST:
My dad told me once that he was offered $1,200 for it, and he turned them down for whatever reasons.

APPRAISER:
I believe that this mask, at a good auction today, would bring $4,000-$6,000.

GUEST:
Wow, he was smart to hang on to it, then.

APPRAISER:
I think he did the right thing.

GUEST:
And I brought him here in a grocery bag, and now I feel like it's a little bit undignified. (laughter)

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
None
Dallas, TX
Appraised value (2014)
$4,000 Auction$6,000 Auction
Event
Austin, TX (June 28, 2014)
Category
Tribal Arts

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