Dan Mask with Female Features

Dan, Ivory Coast/Liberia
Wood with black patina and traces of white paint (kaolin), braided fibers

The Dan tribe is a farming people who inhabit the hinterland of the western Ivory Coast and Liberia. This type of mask was found throughout the northern Dan region. There are several distinct types of Dan masks. This is a Deangle mask. Its female gender is apparent from the delicacy of the features and the coiffure, the braided fiber of which is actual human hair. It has distinct slit eyes surrounded by metal, with a high but gently sloping forehead, and a strongly protruding mouth with full lips. The eyes are painted with white clay (kaolin). The color white is a symbol of joy, but also of the realm of the ancestors. This mask portrays an idealized form of beauty in the Dan culture.

The mask would have been worn in entertaining pantomimes and dances. She represents a gentle spirit who is thought to collect food for boys who are away in initiation camps.

This is a beautiful example of the lovely masks that have come from the Dan people. It was bought by a collector who grew up spending a lot of time in Africa, staying with relatives, before eventually acquiring real estate there. She ventured into the jungle to buy antique masks and figurines from natives who would only sell to collectors and not tourists. This is an authentic African relic.