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Dan Guerre Guere Mask Beard Brass Bells African Art

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Title Dan Guerre Guere Mask Beard Brass Bells African Art
Type of Object Mask
Country of Origin Cote d'Ivoire
People Dan, Guere
Materials Wood, pigment, cloth, metal
Approximate Age 20th century
Dimensions Height: 14 Inches
Width: 8 Inches
Depth: 8 Inches
Overall Condition Fair
Damage/Repair Cracks, chips and a well worn patina

Additional Information: An expressive and large face mask with exaggerate details. The chin area has series of brass bells attached to the remain of a costume made out of cotton cloth and vegetal fibers. The surface of this mask shows significant traces of use. This mask is identified as Dan mask, but it could come from the Guere or Wee people.

Representing a Ge, who is a spirit, this mask would serve as a visible symbol manifesting power, principles, and as a "spirit of the bush" to maintain social order, initiate the young and punish wrongdoers. They are used by the men's secret society called Poro-the enforcing arm of local authority..

If truly Dan and with open round eyes and teeth in mouth, this mask would be identified as a Zakpai ge’ mask, an active and aggressive mask that serves a number of functions. Its primary role is that of a ‘firewatch’ mask that insures proper use of cooking fires by women. Accompanied by drums it confronts a woman who has been using fire carelessly or a fire much too large for its purpose. It appears in a very aggressive dance and will throw sticks and things about, knock over the cook pot with their meals into the fire and may even beat the women who set the fire to cook. Not a friendly mask at all. It also in some areas serves as a war mask. When used the mask had a cloth wrap around the outer edge that covered the dancer when wearing the mask. The few holes around the edge of the mask were used to hold a woven netting to keep the mask close to the face during the vigorous ‘dance’.

Recommended Reading:

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)