Dan Male Standing Wood Figure with Brass Liberia
Sculpted figures such as this striking male figure among the Dan or Yacuba are uncommon among the Dan representing a male rather than the more common female lu me figures that were commissioned by wealthy or socially prominent men to represent their favored wife. Dan figures do not portray ancestors but are stylized portraits of real individuals closely representing the hairstyle, body markings, and physiognomy of the individual. These sculptures are superb examples of Dan sculpture and were often the work of well-known artists who worked in secret away from women and children as they carved figures. The use of this particularly well carved figure with body markings at the different body joints is undefined serving as a memorial or altar object for one of the men's secret societies. If it served as an object active within the men's Poro society it was used during initiations or to maintain social control or to validate rank within the local chapter. What is unique to this figure is the position of the hands that were carved to hold an object placed in the opening shaped by the thumbs. This distinctive shaping of the hands to hold an object, argues a symbolic and ritual activity. The feet were noticeably enlarged so as to support the standing figure. Allied to the idea of ritual or ceremonial activity the face of the figure is remarkably similar to masks used by the Dan during public ceremonies.