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Dan Gle Mask

Masks, called  gle or ge,  are the most important art form of theDan people of Liberia. These words  refer both to the physical masks and individual spirits which inhabit the greater world and seek to enter villages during masquerade performances. 

In this mask, the nearly closed eyes and small mouth indicate that this example probably served in a peacemaking function and created harmony in the community.

Wood, metal and cotton. Oval shaped with full parted lips, delicate nose with nostril holes, and slit eyes. Forehead dome is pronounced and pointed. Eyelids are highlighted with a strip of metal (missing from left eye). The chin sports a line of intricately woven two-colour cotton fringe as a beard, attached with flat head nails. The rim of the mask is pierced for attachment purposes. The entire surface has a rich brown glossy patina. Condition: Very good. This mask dates to the  early 20th century and was a used, functioning mask - it was not created for a tourist or export market.

Measurements: height 22 cm, width 13 cm.

Further reading:

In order for a gle to be embodied during a masquerade, an initiated member of a Dan men's society must have a dream that reveals the exact nature of the gle, its intended function, and the masquerade through which the gle will manifest. A council of elders then decides whether a mask and its accompanying costume made of raffia, feathers and fur should be created for that man to wear and perform.


Dan gle mask with a peacekeeping function, Brooklyn Museum

 

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