|Title||Dan Brass Mask Braided Hair Liberia African Art|
|Type of Object||Wound and decorated glass|
|Country of Origin||Liberia, Cote d'Ivoire|
|Materials||brass (unknown metal content)|
|Approximate Age||Mid 20th century|
|Dimensions||Height: 9.25 Inches
Width: 5.5 Inches
|Damage/Repair||some tarnished metal, dents and cavities. broken holes on back rim|
Additional Information: The Dan style is quite evident, with circular eyes and pursed lips. But this specimen is crafted from cast brass, probably using a lost wax mold.
The considerable reputation of the Dan in the artworld is based almost entirely on their output of beautiful and expressive masks. The masks are fairly uniform in style, and most often are found in two sizes: large face masks used for dances and festivals, and tiny "passport" masks kept as personal talismans. The Dan also produce fine, figural "hospitality" spoons, and elaborate wooden "mancala" games, a popular pastime throughout much of West Africa. Though somewhat unexpected, the Dan produce very little in the way of formal statuary, and the few statues that exist are usually female and thought to represent "favorite" wives. Utilitarian objects are either rare, or not distinct enough to attribute.
The Dan, historically a warrior people, are thought to have been in the Ivory Coast area for perhaps two thousand years, though the evidence for this is scant. It is known however that the Dan were heavily preyed upon by slave raiders in the 17/18th century, and the creation of Liberia in 1847 was marked by the repatriation of large numbers of them. These returning ex-slaves eventually outnumbered their relatives in the Ivory Coast, and that is still the case today. The Dan have no centralized government, and each village is relatively autonomous. The ability to accumulate wealth and prove one's ability are highly prized by Dan society, and the belief is known as the "tin." This social system still exists today, though the ways to gain wealth and prestige have changed, from prowess in agriculture and hunting, to success in the diamond mines and rubber plantations.
E. Donner: Kunst und Handwerk in NO-Liberiaí, Baessler-Archiv, xxiii/2-3 (1940), pp. 45-110.
Harley, G.W., Notes on the Poro in Liberia, Papers of the Peabody Museum, Archaeology & Ethnology, XIX, No.2 (Cambridge, MA, 1941)
G. Schwab: Tribes of the Liberian Hinterland, ed. G. W. Harley, Papers Peabody Museum, Archaeology & Ethnology, xxxi (Cambridge, MA, 1947)
Harley, G.W. Masks as Agents of Social Control in Northeast Liberia, Papers of the Peabody Museum, Archaeology & Ethnology, xxxii, No.2 (Cambridge, MA, 1950)
W. Siegmann and Cynthia Schmidt, Rock of the Ancestors, (Suacoco, 1977)
E. Fischer and Hans Himmelheber; The Arts of the Dan in West Africa, (Zurich, 1984)