Q: I own a what I believe is a Dan mask which has been in the family for quite some time now. It has been much appreciated but now in search of a new home. Was wondering if you could tell me some things about the mask. Dagomar, 1449
A: Thanks for the excellent photos. Your Dan is the deangle type, with the familiar slit eye holes and vertical ridge on the bulging forehead. It is considered by the Dan to be very feminine. Even though it is a reproduction that could have been carved someplace other than Liberia or the Ivory Coast, it makes a great impression with it’s markings, slanted eyes and far-out teeth.
There are different types of Dan masks that represent the supernatural spirit forces that live in the forest but want to enter the civilized world of the village. The only way they can do this, the Dan believe, is through masquerade.
The mask would be accompanied with a full-body costume constructed of raffia, feathers and fur. It is believed that each mask has its own personality, preferences, dance and speech patterns and is given a personal name. The wearer of the mask takes on all of these qualities to the masquerade. Having come from the dark, mysterious realm of the forest, this character is believed to be unpredictable. Therefore, an attendant always accompanies the masquerader to control it and interpret its speech. B