African Fertility Masks
African fertility masks have been used in African cultures for centuries during rituals to evoke motherhood and birth
Brief history and description
An African fertility mask can vary in size and style depending on its purpose and where it was crafted, and may feature various different carvings depicting faces, animals or even phallic symbols and shapes as well. The fertility masks were commonly carved out of soft woods, such as green timber.
The Warega and Benin tribes often used ivory in their fertility masks, while the Benin, Senufo and Ashanti tribes used brass. Some of the many other various materials used include shells, bark, beads, plant fibers and metals, or even teeth, hairs and skin as well.
Large fertility masks which contain small eyes and protruding foreheads or cheeks were typically crafted by the Kongo people during the early 15th century.
Masks which were crafted in Zaire were either triangular in shape or featured bulging eyes or an open mouth with colourful teeth.
Guide for collectors
Fertility masks featuring teeth, skin, hair, ivory or phallic symbols and shapes are considered to be the most rare and valuable. Fertility masks which were crafted in Tanzani or Mozambique are less rare.
Restoring an African fertility mask is not recommended.
Kogenea.org has information regarding the history and features of African fertility masks, and Lotus Masks' official website has a collection of various different African masks and statues as well.
Morphy Auctions in Denver, Pennsylvania sold an African Cumba fertility mask (36") featuring beads, sea shells and straw for $1,300 in June of 2006.
Allard Auctions Inc. in St. Ignatius, MT sold an African fertility mask from the Mosi tribe (circa 1950s; 22" x 14") featuring various different bird figures for $180 in December of 2011.
DuMouchelles in Detroit, Michigan sold a wooden African Fertility Mask (circa 19th century; 36" x 11") featuring carvings of antelope heads for $150 in January of 2012, and the same mask sold for $125 in April of 2012.
Depew Auction Gallery in Atlanta, Georgia sold an African fertility mask (18") for $30 in June of 2009.