Dan Passport Mask - Liberia or Côte d'Ivoire

Masks were perhaps the most important art tradition in Dan culture, embodying conduits of communication with the spirit world that guided and influenced the affairs of the physical realm. While masks were largely worn and danced, many cultures in western Africa produced what are now referred to as “passport masks,” miniature replicas or surrogates of a primary mask that could be easily carried in a pouch. A passport mask held the primary mask’s spirit and could be fully employed by its user when traveling outside their immediate community.

This passport mask is carved with relatively naturalistic features, with a prominent forehead and cheeks, full lips and a steady gaze. A tapered handle projects below the chin. While some passport masks offered protection or other benefits to their carriers, this example likely represents the Kedie, a judgment piece used in ceremonial contexts by an important community member or elder.

 

Early 20th century
5 ½” h 2” w
Wood
Provenance: Bruce Frank Gallery, New York
#549
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