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A fine Eastern Pende Panya-Gombe African mask. Coll.: David Norden

African Art books I like | Genuine African Masks

Dan masks from my private collection.

Dan mask Duperrier

These rare Dan masks where collected in the '60s, but are certainly from begin XXth or late XIXth. Superb quality. 

My mother collected Dan and Bassa masks, I remember that my mother had a wall filled with +/- 70 Bassa masks brought back during the Biafra war by Paolo Moridgi and +/- 5 Dan masks.

In between I bought several Dan masks, and also asks my mother for a Bassa mask when it is my anniversary each year.

David Norden 
fine Dan african Mask.
Click to view the explanation.Dan-Houzeau-back.jpg (122904 bytes)


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This is a Dan mask with complete documentation from Houzeau De Lehaie, a biologist who bought it in 1934 between Dan & Danane. He was the left hand from Frans Olbrechts. 

It goes with a copy from the French field book with a drawing from the mask. I found the original documents in the Tervueren Museum.

This mask is not for sale, it's from my private collection, but it can be included in a museum exhibition on request.

two_fine_dan_masks.jpg (44098 bytes)  Two fine Dan masks from my mother's collection.
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A very fine Dan mask coming from the Duperrier collection Paris . Available for sale or inclusion in an exhibition.

A Dan Forest Spirit Mask

The lips have red pigments.

See my advertising in the Tribal autumn '03 edition with the mask.  

The fine coiffe is typical for XIXth century samples.

 These masks would be adorned with textiles, hair or facepaint (red=danger, white=the spirit world), but they depend primarily on skillful carving for their effect. 

Deangle masks are worn by someone from the initiation school who is sent back to the village for food. There, his identity hidden behind the calm, smiling, almost feminine features of the mask, he gathers supplies and reassures the mothers about their sons' well-being. 

Dan boys who attend initiation school have no contact with their mothers for several weeks -- the length of initiation school.

The principal mask-carving peoples of northern Liberia and western Ivory Coast are the Dan, Mano, Loma, Wee, and Grebo. Each group speaks a different language although the Dan, Mano and Loma languages are similar as are the Wee and Grebo. Skilled farmers and hunters, the Dan have traditionally lacked broad political unity and each village functions as an individual political and economic unit.

The Dan believe that the forest -- the uncultivated land -- is their source of spiritual power and the masks in the Spirit of Africa Collection are generally known as forest spirit masks. They often depict animals, birds and forest spirits rather than humans. The masks are worn during instruction at young men's initiation camp in the bush but not at final ceremonies. They are usually of finely carved hardwood, polished black, but otherwise unembellished or lightly so.

Dan masks are typically symmetrical and highly stylized with squinty eyes, everted lips, and naturalistic nose. They frequently have vertical ridges running down the middle of the face from forehead to chin. Dan masks exhibited in Paris in the early 1900's inspired Picasso to develop the strongly abstracting style of Cubism, which would be so influential in the course of modern art.

Dan forest spirit masks might have been worn by a chief or judge when arbitrating a disagreement at a cow feast. In addition to the classic Dan facial features, incised lines show scarification patterns, and white clay around the eyes indicate contact with the spirit world.

Read also African tribes > West Africa > Dan-Ngere

Some information found at:

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In this section:
Dan masks
Songye Kifwebe 

African art books

The Tribal Arts of Africa

The Tribal Arts of Africa
Author: Jean-Baptiste Bacquart

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