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HOME : African & Tribal Art : Dan Masks : Dan Wooden Polychrome Mask
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Dan Wooden Polychrome Mask - PF.6032
Origin: Liberia
Circa: 20 th Century AD
Dimensions: 13" (33.0cm) high
Collection: African
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 have a great number of masked figures 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 meaning of the masks changes 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. This style of mask, specifically its high-domed forehead, slit eyes, and long, beak-like nose, indicates that it is a work of the northern Dan. Similar types of masks are the Dugle and Gagon, both of which were worn for entertainment purposes. The bright red paint that covers the beak and the tongue-shaped protrusion that rests along the hairline add to the festive mood of this stunning mask. The sculptor of this work has gracefully combined human and animal elements into one. He appears both man and bird, although not quite either in full. Perhaps this is a representation of a bush spirit or a mythological character. Clearly, this mask indicates that it is well worn and heavily encrusted with the patina of usage. Doubtlessly, this mask once amused countless numbers of Dan villages with its colorful charms as it astounds us today with its remarkable beauty.
- (PF.6032)


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