Dan, Wee, Kran, Guerre Guere Mask Liberia Côte d'Ivoire
The surface and back of this mask shows signs of long use and age.
Both the Dan and Wee have dynamic masking associations known as Poro that initiate the young and regulate society. Poro is an exclusively restricted men's society, however masks between the Wee and their Dan neighbors are divided into male and female categories based on their form and details.
Female masks are rounded or oval, narrow eyes and finely delicate non-challenging features, whereas the male mask is larger in size, grosser in proportions, with an open and challenging mouth with teeth, tube-like eyes, fur and raffia.
The exaggerated features of this mask, though vaguely human, refer to forces in the bush whose energy and powers add to the authority of the spirit represented. Whereas female masks appear to entertain, male masks exercise social control, punishing wrongdoers, settling disputes, declaring wars and proclaiming peace. In the past they are also said to have been in the bush camps when the boys were being initiated.
Wee masks like this were meant to instill fear through their appearance combining human and animal features and remembrance of the masks's aggressive behavior in the past.
Dan art is a particular style of African art that originates from the Dan people, who live primarily in Liberia and the Ivory-Coast. Dan art is known for its intricate wood carvings, which often depict human or animal figures. The carvings are typically used in a variety of cultural and religious contexts, such as initiation ceremonies, funerals, and divination rituals.
One of the most iconic forms of Dan art is the mask, which is used in a variety of different ceremonies and rituals. Dan masks are often characterized by their elongated shape, and by the use of stylized features such as high foreheads, narrow eyes, and pointed chins. The masks are often decorated with intricate geometric patterns and symbolic imagery, such as animals or plants.
The Dan in the past lived in small villages and towns ruling themselves through a complex arrangement of family lineages, men's secret societies and various initiation ceremonies. Famous for their masks the Dan believe that spirits of the wild known as Du manifest themselves in masks and masquerades to humans instructing and sustaining them in life. Famous for their masks the Dan believe that spirits, known as Du, live in the untamed forests and manifest themselves to humans in masks and masquerades instructing and sustaining the Dan in life. When during a dream a male was instructed by a Du to dance a mask, he would commission a carver to make a mask for him. Among the Dan, masks are grouped in an assortment of forms with different duties assigned to each.
In addition to masks, Dan art also includes a wide range of other forms, such as figurines, stools, and musical instruments. Many of these objects are decorated with the same stylized features and symbolic imagery as the masks, creating a cohesive and visually striking artistic tradition.
Overall, Dan art is a testament to the rich cultural heritage of the Dan people, and to the power of art to express complex cultural and spiritual ideas.