late 19th–early 20th century

African Art

Not on view

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.


Wood from the Apocynaceae tree family, copper, iron, fiber, and pigment


11 1/4 × 8 1/4 × 4 1/4 in. (28.6 × 21 × 10.8 cm)

Credit Line

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. James M. Osborn for the Linton Collection of African Art

Accession Number





19th–20th century


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 records is ongoing.



Dr. George Way Harley (1894–1966) Ganta, Liberia, by 1950 [see note 1]; sold to Dr. Ralph Linton (1893–1953), by 1953 [see note 2]; by descent to his wife, Adelin Hohlfield Linton (1899–1977); sold to Marie-Louise Montgomery Osborn (1905–1968) and James Marshall Osborn (1906–1976), 1954; given to the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.,1954

Note 1: George Way Harley, M.D. Yale University, 1923, was an American Methodist Medical Missionary who was the founder and superintendent of Ganta Mission, Ganta, Liberia between 1926–1960. He was a Research Associate in Anthropology at the Peabody Museum, Harvard University between 1932–1962 and he acquired many artworks for institutions and private collectors during his time.

Note 2: Ralph Linton was the Sterling Professor of Anthropology at Yale from 1946 until his death in 1953.
  • Allen F. Roberts, Marla C. Berns, and Tom Joyce, Striking Iron: The Art of African Blacksmiths, exh. cat. (Los Angeles: Fowler Museum at UCLA, 2019), 85, fig. 3.5.
  • 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.
  • Jessica Feinstein, "Art, Out of Africa," Yale Daily News (January 30, 2004), B1, ill.
  • George W. Harley, Masks as Agents of Social Control in Northeast Liberia (Cambridge, Mass.: Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnography, 1950), xiii, 45, no. e, p. XIV, ill.
Object copyright
Additional information

Object/Work type

ceremonial objects, masks (costume)

Technical metadata and APIs


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