About this piece
“The Dan believe that ‘in’ and behind’ this world exists an essential force called dü which is usually described as a power that is present in all aspects of the world. Dü manifests itself as invisible spirits which may take the form of men or animals. There are some dü spirits which in order to realise a physical nature, must rely on men to create a tangible form for them as masks or fetishes. The dü causes a man to dream of it and then instructs him in the means through which it must be materialised. One type of dü spirit prefers to be manifested as a masquerade – these are the mask spirits.
All spirit masks are described as ge by the northern Dan and as gle or glö by the southern & western Dan (meaning ‘mysterious being’). These masquerade spirits wish to help men and to advise them, revealing their desire through dreams. The masquerade does not merely represent a spirit, it IS that spirit.
Every spirit masquerade has a proper name (e.g. wuti = black antelope / slü = falcon / gao = diana monkey). In addition they often have another title / a praise name or one which explains the function or significance of the masquerade. The kagle mask is today worn to entertain the village and generate a lively and festive mood by throwing sticks into crowds whilst dancing. It is believed that the kagle masquerade was once responsible for “exciting the town in preparation for battle” (Tompieme 1983). Kagle masks are made to look like a variety of animals, each with its own name.”
This mask appears to be made in the likeness of a crocodile.
About the Dan Kran People
“Dan people, who are also known by the name Yacuba, live in the western part of the Ivory Coast and into Liberia where the land is forested in the south and bordered by a savannah in the north. The 320,000 Dan people make their living from farming cocoa, rice and manioc. Before unifying secret societies were set up at the turn of the century, each Dan village was an autonomous socio-political unit governed by a chief elected on the base of his wealth and social position. Today, the leopard society acts as a major regulator of Dan life and initiates young men during their isolated periods of three to four months in the forest. Dan people have achieved notoriety in the area for their entertainment festivals which were historically village ceremonies, but are today performed largely for tourists. During these festivals, masked performers dance on stilts.”
“Dan Kran people inhabit the southern part of the Dan territory and have powerful carved masks with geometric triangular features.”
Baquart, Jean-Baptiste. The Tribal Arts of Africa. New York: Thames and Hudson Inc. 1998. Print.
Dave Dahl—CEO Discover African Art
Keywords: Dan, Kran, Yacuba, Ivory Coast, Cote D’Ivoire, Liberia, Mask