Friday, August 17, 2012

African World Festival, Detroit

Our new African Mask: A "Sickness Mask"from the Congo

This afternoon we walked around the sales booths for the African World Festival, sponsored by the Detroit Museum of African American History. The festival will present a number of events tomorrow, but we just happened to be there today. We went to Detroit to see an exhibit of five Spanish paintings by Velazquez, Picasso, Dali, ElGreco, and Goya at the Detroit Institute of Arts across the street.

The festival was quiet, but very colorful. I'm sure it will become much more crowded as the weekend progresses, and I'm glad we were there at a calm time.




Several of the many booths offered a wide selection of African masks and other traditional wood carvings, both antique and modern. We bought our new mask from Billo Berete of Newark, N.J. -- below, Len in the booth:



There were many other masks in this booth, including two more Sickness Masks, as shown above. As I understand it, sickness masks are characterized by asymmetry, contrasting colors on opposite sides of the face or double faces, and sometimes by anguished looks. The mask at left in the middle was an extremely wonderful piece, made not only of wood but also mud, seeds, and cloth. It's probably more authentic than the one we bought, but it was too vivid for my taste. It made me anxious!

For more information on Sickness Masks, including images, see the second half of my July, 2009, post "Why do I like African Masks?"

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