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African Art in Modern Decorating

For many of us who love cultural art, especially African art can visit our local modern American stores that feature decorative items for the home that will reveal a number of replicas of African art, some of which have “made in China” tags affixed to them. It is also possible to find not only replicas but authentic African art objects for sale online.

In this blog, we review two Nda masks - one authentic and one replica to see the difference between the two, and how it adds or takes away from the value of home decor.

Date: 19th–20th century, Geography: Côte d'Ivoire, Bandama River region, Culture: Baule peoples Medium: Wood, metal, patina stain.

In Baule communities in Côte d'Ivoire, Mblo performances comprise skits that feature masked dancers who impersonate familiar subjects that range from animals to human caricatures. The dances escalate in complexity and importance and eventually culminate in a performance that pays tribute to the community's most admired member. The individual thus honored is depicted by a mask that is conceived as his or her artistic "double" or "namesake." (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2012)

The Twin Mblo mask is from Ivory Coast. The Mblo are a group within the Baule people of Ivory Coast. These masks were used in traditional dances to entertain. These masks portray beautiful women and brave men. (, 2012)

Of the two Twin Mblo masks, the authentic Twin Mask (Nda) is more richly defined in detailed lines, form, and shape than the replica. The authentic Twin Mask (Nda) has harmonious and well-proportioned arrangements of the faces and other ornaments, which easily suits a flat-surfaced wall offering equilibrium and composure. Unlike the Twin Mask replica, which has a distorted balance in the face arrangement and dull colors. Although the replica appears to have a similar appearance, the emphasis on color, shape and the perspective of the mask does not compare to the authentic Twin Mask (NDA).

Then again, both twin masks offer visual interest, yet the replica is less unified than the authentic Twin Mask (NDA). As the guest enters a home, they will be drawn in to observe this authentic piece of art that pays tribute to admired members.

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