Label Text: The Dan call masks gle or ga and believe them to be manifestations of wild forest spirits. These spirits (du) have no form, but when they wish to use their powers to support humankind, they manifest themselves in powerful objects, large ritual spoons or masks. Spirits select an individual to impersonate them by appearing in his or her dreams. Only men, however, are selected to don masks that represent spirits. The spirit informs the man of the required type of mask, its name, accoutrements, musical accompaniment and dance steps.
Label Text: Dan masks range in design from naturalistic to highly stylized. They represent male and female humans, male animals or a mixture of human and animal features. Masks appear in contexts related to social control, political and judicial matters, peacemaking, education, competition and entertainment.
Label Text: The Dan commissioned artists to carve masks but not often. Successful old masks were preferred and were employed as long as possible. The identity and contexts of use changed over time. Accordingly, an entertainment mask could become a renowned court justice mask.
Provenance: Rudolph Fuszek, collected in Liberia, 1928
Provenance: Neprajzi Museum, Budapest, -- to 1972
Provenance: Emile M. Deletaille, Brussels, 1972 to 1985
Exhibition History: Visionary: Viewpoints on Africa's Arts, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., November 4, 2017-ongoing
Exhibition History: Masques du Monde, Société Génerale de Banque, Brussels, June 28-July 31, 1974
Published References: Bodrogi, Tibor. 1981. Stammeskunst. Budapest: Corvina, vol.1, no. 245.
Published References: Donner, E. 1940. "Kunst und Handwerk in No-Liberia." Baessler-Archiv, vol. 23, p. 107.
Published References: Société Génerale de Banque. 1974. Masques du monde. Bruxelles: Société Génerale de Banque, no. 5.
Published References: National Museum of African Art. 1999. Selected Works from the Collection of the National Museum of African Art. Washington, D.C.: National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, pp. 40-41, no. 20B.
Maker: Dan artist
Object number: 85-15-1
Date: Late 19th-early 20th century
Medium: Wood, iron, pigment
Dimensions: H x W x D: 33 x 25.4 x 10.1 cm (13 x 10 x 4 in.)
See more items in: National Museum of African Art Collection
Exhibition: Visionary: Viewpoints on Africa's Arts
On View: NMAfA, Second Level Gallery (2193)
Credit Line: Museum purchase