Dan Wooden Tankagle Mask

SKU PF.1265

20th Century AD


9.875″ (25.1cm) high x 5.125″ (13.0cm) wide




Liberia/Ivory Coast

Gallery Location

S Korea


The life of the Dan people is governed by the Poro society, an organization for men that trains and initiates boys in the community’s laws and in general maintains order and traditions. Many different masks are used for the society’s ceremonies. Judges, protectors, diviners, and watchmen all have an identifying mask type, and others are made to use in circumcision rites, to guard against trespassers, and to collect food that is brought back to the boys in their Poro initiation camps. One form is even worn by a guardian who sees that women extinguish their fires at noon in the dry season.

The “tankagle” mask represents a beneficent woman and, with its smooth surfaces, naturalistic details, well carved facial planes, and half closed eyes, is understandably regarded as beautiful by the Dan. Such masks are worn by performers who appear sometimes with an attendant and at other times with a chorus or orchestra. They dance, sing, tell proverbs, and bless the onlookers. A cone shaped cap is often worn on the top of the mask. Most of the Dan live in Liberia, but a small number occupy part of neighboring Guinea. This mask exhibits a fine mellow medium brown patina and metal teeth and eyelids. The metal would have been polished to reflect the light of the campfires emphasizing the mystery of the performance.

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