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HOME : African & Tribal Art : Dan Masks : Dan Bronze Mask
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Dan Bronze Mask - LSO.573 (GD.119)
Origin: Africa
Circa: 1600 AD to 1850 AD
Dimensions: 9" (22.9cm) high
Collection: African Art
Medium: Bronze

Location: United States
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The Dan peoples of Liberia and the Ivory Coast stand out among their neighbours both socially and artistically. They arrived in their current location from their Sudanese homeland in around the 8th century AD, and created an economy that is notionally agricultural but which has a great deal of reliance upon the wild for both food and ritual procedures. The Dan lack true central authority, although efforts were made in the 19th century to unite them all under the “go” (leopard) society. They remain somewhat fragmented, yet tending to unite in battles with their neighbours – which include the Guro, We and Mano – who view them with a certain alarm, as they are notoriously fierce in martial contexts. This relative social flexibility has given rise to numerous secret societies, masquerade groups and social networks that are extremely hierarchical. Their belief structure is similarly complex, with a creator god named Zlan (who created the universe from clay), and a spiritual force called Du, which is in all things and is the intermediary between this world and the next. In addition, there are numerous spirits that are divided roughly into domestic (town and village) and wild (woods and country). Society is segmented accordingly to appease or control these spirits, and many of these functionaries have specific mask forms. Masks, which contain a spiritual force named “gle”, are also carved as good luck charms, as talismans, and as a means of assuring safe passage through enemy territory. As a result, Dan masks are among the most diverse and accomplished in Africa. The current example is unusual in being made of metal, and does not subscribe to any of the modern forms of Dan mask-making. A comparison between the Dan, their subgroups (Yacuba, Geh, Gio) and their neighbours (Mano, Wenion) shows the general pattern and proportions, including that of the eyes, but the horns, the lower face prognathism and the incised decoration of which there are traces on the forehead reflect the mask’s antiquity on a stylistic basis. The patina is encrusted, and the mask is in good condition. This is a rare and unusual item. - (LSO.573 (GD.119))


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