~ Dan Dean Gle Tribal Mask From Liberia ~
A Dan Dean Gle carved wooden tribal mask from the Ivory Coast, with seashell headband, plaited bead-work and string hair. It has a cloth hood to the reverse. These types of masks represent an idealised form of Dan feminine beauty and were used to connect with their spirit world to teach, entertain and nurture.
It most likely dates to the mid-2oth century.
~ Dan Masks ~
Masks are the most important art form of the Dan people of Liberia. The Dan people refer to these masks as gle or ge, terms that refers both to the physical mask and the individual spirits the mask is believed to embody during masquerade performances.
Scholars use the terms ge and gle interchangeably to refer both to Dan masks and to invisible, supernatural spirit forces that live in the forest but esteem to enter the civilised world of the village. The only way they can do this, the Dan believe, is through masquerade.
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 would manifest. The council of elders, once they are told of the dream, decides whether the masquerade ensemble should be created for that man to wear and perform.
The wooden gle is accompanied by a full-body costume constructed of raffia, feathers and fur. It is believed that each gle has its own personality, preferences, dance and speech patterns and is given a personal name. The wearer of the mask takes on all of these qualities during the masquerade. Having come from the dark, mysterious realm of the forest, a gle is believed to be unpredictable. Therefore, an attendant always accompanies the gle masquerader to control it and interpret its speech.
Gle can be divided into two categories: that of dean gle, which is a gentle, peaceful gle without a gender, but whose qualities are thought of as feminine and that of bu gle, which is the war gle named after the sound of a gunshot, whose qualities are thought of as masculine.
The dean gle mask represents an idealised version of Dan beauty. It is characterised by narrow eyes, an oval shape, a smooth forehead, and a mouth slightly open to expose teeth. Dean gle’s functions are to teach, entertain and nurture.
Bugle masks are designed to frighten. Their eyes are depicted as protruding tubes and the surface of the face has boldly projecting angles. The most powerful bugle masks are decorated with animal and human deposits such a bone and fur.
~ Condition ~
The mask is in excellent condition though has been worn many times in its history. The cloth sacking is quite worn with a large tear. The shells and bead work are in good order.
~ Dimensions ~
The mask itself is 26 cm (10 inches) tall by 17 cm (6.75 inches) wide.