DAN MASKS

The Dan group is a tribe of the Dan-Nguere. They live in west Liberia, Guinea Conakry and west Ivory Coast. The social and spiritual base of the Dan-Nguere is the secret society Poro, that means "sierra". There are a lot of different Dan-Nguere masks, and sometimes one kind of mask is used in different places for several finalities.

Female Dan masks are known by the importance given to the face: egg-shaped, oval forehead, long and narrow eyes, thin nose and half-opened mouth. The excelence of the lines is enhanced by a shining patina they introduce in wood, using vegetables extracts. When the extracts are dry, the color becomes soft, and it looks like a lacquer. These masks are used to regulate disagreements and to protect children. The Dan usually make reproductions of these masks called "ma" to venerate them and as a protection against diseases. The masks are hidden, and they make clear that the owner belongs to the Poro society. This way, the mask almost becomes a sacred object, and it has to be venerated with presents of rice and palm oil, and sacrifices during full moon periods.

It is not the same with the male face, wich are more realistic and sometimes with animal features, as we can see in the excessively long lips of this mask. The Dan masks contain the vital strength called "du", given by Zlan the creator to human beings and animals. There are many "du", and they appear in dreams to tell how they want to be represented. Sometimes, they just want a fetish to be done for them, or one tree to be planted, or one mask to reside in. Then, the spirit materializes in a "gle", and it can take part in the life of the group. Each "gle" has a role, and it presides the events of the community. It also appears in moments of danger or entertainment. This is why there are a lot of different Dan masks.

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