Dan Mask


Ivory Coast

The Dan mask serves as a tool of communication between the living and their ancestors. The Go master, the head of the Go society, a society which regulates Dan’s life, owns the masks and guards them in a sacred hut. All Dan masks are sacred; they do not represent spirits of the wilderness, they are these spirits. The Dan has various different masks that they use for different rituals, being initiation, against bush fires during the dry season, pre-war ceremonies and for peace-making ceremonies. Over time, many among them have lost their original function and have been recycled into contexts related to entertainment, emerging only for festivals or events organized for visitors. During these festivals, agile masked performers dance on stilts.

This is a Gunyege mask. It is used in racing games and ceremonies in which the masked spirit must compete against unmasked runners. If the wearer loses the race, it means the spirit has deserted that person and the mask goes to the winner, as a trophy to wear in the next race. Its wearer is pursued by an unmasked runner or runners and, if caught, the unmasked runner wears the mask and is, in turn, pursued. Historically, these races trained men to fight and the winner gained social recognition, nowadays, the races are more like a game.

Wood , Woven fibers , Cotton

Height : 16″ (40.6cm)