African Art

Mask

late 19th–early 20th century

Wood, copper, iron, fiber, and pigment

11 1/4 x 8 1/4 x 4 1/4 in. (28.6 x 21 x 10.8 cm)
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. James M. Osborn for the Linton Collection of African Art
1954.28.7
As they grew older, Dan masks could have taken on other, more prestigious functions than those they were originally carved to fulfill. For this reason, it is often difficult to establish the exact identity of individual masks. For example, the headband of metal blades helps identify this mask as Gaa Wree Wre, a powerful law enforcer of the Go Leopard Society, though it may originally have been used as a Deangle mask in a friendly, joyful masquerade. For the Dan, the creation of a mask is anticipated by a dream in which an ancestor spirit calls upon a man to offer help and advice. The mask is then commissioned from a carver, fulfilling the spirit’s desire to participate in human activities in a tangible form and to benefit its human counterpart.
Culture: 
Dan
Period: 
19th–20th century
Classification: 
Masks
Geography: 
Made in Guinea Coast, Liberia
or made in Ivory Coast
Status: 
Not on view
Provenance: 

Dr. Ralph Linton, Sterling Professor of Anthropology at Yale, unknown date–1953
Mr. and Mrs. James M. Osborn donated to Yale University Art Gallery for the Linton Collection of African Art in 1954

Bibliography: 

Jessica Feinstein, “Art, Out of Africa,” Yale Daily News (January 30, 2004), B1, ill.

Frederick John Lamp, “Hot Space, Cool Space: The Reinstallation of the African Art Collection in the Louis Kahn Building at Yale University,” African Arts 40 (Summer 2007): 51, fig. 30.

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.