||We Dan Mask
Liberia, the Ivory Coast
Early to mid 20 th century
Black patina wood with brass
12 1/2 inches high and 8 1/2 inches wide
The Dan-Ngere complex of tribes live in areas of eastern Liberia, Guinea and the western Ivory Coast and include the Dan, Ngere, Wobe, Toma, Mano, Geh, Gio, Kran, Gerze, Grebo and Kru tribes and each has a poro (men's society) that has evolved a distinguishable face mask style that is restrained and humanistic.
This We Dan mask is ornately decorated, implying it is a royal mask or takes on the likeness of a high-ranking ancestor-spirit.
The Dan people are related to the Mano and speak the peripheral Mande language. They believe that forest spirits select human partners to participate in life on earth and/or to help humans with their lives.
WE DAN masks are used in ceremonial worship and dances performed by dancers, gymnasts, singers and poets. Warrior masked masquerades are danced by Dan peoples south of the Dan along the coasts of Liberia and Côte d'Ivoire, who inherited their masks from past soldiers (some of whom speak Kru).
The We live in egalitarian communities. The We Dan believe there is a god; the masquerade is a spirit which God has given to men to organize, stabilize and discipline them. Oftentimes the ornamentation of brass bells or cartridges indicates a mask has become the assistant or bard of a great mask. Important figures and masks are adorned with brass.