Dan Masks

The people of Dan extends on the north-west of Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire. This ethnic group lives mainly in forested regions; it’s made up of farmers and growers who regularly move from the forest to create new fields. They can also live by hunting and fishing. The art of Dan is expressed mainly with wooden masks, which give a lot of importance and power to those who wear them.

Dan mask with a particular long nose

Dan mask with a particular long nose, which seems to be the beak of a mythological bird. The oval face, with its soft curves, is typical of Dan works. The gentle facial proportions and the strong jutting nose, although potentially at odds, are able to harmonize perfectly. The charm that flows seems to remember the allegorical masks of Venice carnival. An element of further advantage is the glossy sheen, obtained using vegetable substances which when they’re dry take a soft color, reminiscent of the lacquer.

Dan mask with a particular long nose

Dan dance mask

It was used during commemorative ceremonies, to transmit spiritual charisma to the wearer. Zoomorphic features merge with anthropomorphic traits, giving life to an artwork distinguished by aesthetic realism and creativity. The upper part is enhanced by an elaborate crown, which creates contrast with the smooth face’s surface The lower part, instead, is enhanced by some bells.

Dan dance mask

Dan mask with beak

This intriguing wooden mask, by ethnic group Dan, blends both anthropomorphic and zoomorphic features. Two large holes leave space for the eyes of who wears the object, making it even more fascinating. The nose turns slightly upward, while the mouth is replaced by the beak of a bird.

Dan mask with beak

Kagle Dan mask

This gorgeous wooden mask, by ethnic group Dan, is called ‘Kagle’, or ‘Kaogle’; it depicts a chimpanzee, represented in an angular and geometrical manner. The forehead is wide and protruding, while the eyes are hollow and triangular. Besides, the large open mouth is movable, thanks to the strings on the side. This is a surplus, which makes the mask even more likable.

Kagle Dan mask

Zoomorphic Dan mask

This fascinating and intriguing handmade item by the ethnic group Dan blends zoomorphic and anthropomorphic characteristics. The most striking feature is the absence of the eyes, which appear as two deep dark cavities. The other stong peculiarity is the mouth; it in fact combines the fleshiness of the lips but also sharp teeth. The fusion of soft and pointed details determines the original beauty of this mask.

Zoomorphic Dan mask

Gegon Dan Mask

The bird represented by the Gegon mask is the hornbill, important for the mythology of this ethnic group as the first being created by Zlan (the supreme being), as well as palm oil carrier, an important food source for people Dan. Nowadays Gegon dances strictly for entertainment; originally it used to sing songs and proverbs, to educate the people about the importance of this mythological bird. The artwork is carved from hard wood and painted black on the front. A beard made of monkey skin is attached to the lower border of the powerful beak thanks to resin.

Gegon Dan Mask

Deangle mask by Dan

This type of mask Dan, called ‘deangle’, is a female protective oval-shaped mask, with eyes drawn with two slits and hair in vegetable fibers. During the initiation rites, it has the intermediary function between young people isolated in the forest and their village; in this case, is renamed “bonagle”, which means “joking and laughing masking.”

Deangle mask by Dan

Zakpai mask

Masks such as this one are known as ‘fire runner masks’ because they were worn by young men who ran through Dan villages to extinguish ‘forgotten’ stove fires, while the women were at work in the fields.
The present mask is a beautiful, old Zakpai mask, with round eyes, accentuated cheekbones and a protruding open mouth.

Zakpai mask