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HOME : African & Tribal Art : Dan Masks : Dan Wooden Mask
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Dan Wooden Mask - PF.5934
Origin: Liberia/Ivory Coast
Circa: 20 th Century AD
Dimensions: 9.125" (23.2cm) high x 5.75" (14.6cm) wide
Collection: African
Style: Dan
Medium: Wood

Location: United States
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The Dan are a farming people who inhabit the hinterland of the western Ivory Coast and Liberia. They produce a great variety of masks that represent spirits of the bush, and fulfill a variety of social, political, and religious functions. Although eleven individual types of masks can be distinguished by formal criteria, the types cannot be associated with specific functions because the meanings of the masks change over time.

The rounded features, delicate carving, and finely polished surface characteristic of Dan masks make them among the most popular and highly appreciated types of all African art. The oval shape of the mask with its finely carved features including the high forehead, raised eyebrows, and strongly protruding mouth with full lips indicates that this is the work of the northern Dan peoples. The circular eyes that permit unhindered vision on the part of the wearer are characteristic of the racer mask (gunye ge) and the fire mask (zakpei ge), two mask types originating in the north. The gunye ge hold weekly running contests during the dry season to test the prowess of young warriors. The zapkei ge also appear at this time of the year to inspect cooking fires and prevent possible spreading. A fiber wig and beard would have originally filled the holes around the rim of the mask. This wig would have covered up the scarf that the wearer had to wrap around his head as a rule to further conceal the dancer’s identity. This mask is a masterpiece of woodcarving; it is evocative but not imitative of the human form and originally served a sacred ceremonial purpose. All these aspects make the mask an epitome of African art that can be easily embraced and lauded by Western aesthetical tastes. - (PF.5934)


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