For the Dan — an ethno-linguistic group which is concentrated in Côte d’Ivoire, the neighbouring areas of Liberia and Guinea coasts — a mask, or a masked performer, is more than just the representative of a spirit world. In some cases, it is the very manifestation of the supreme being or a supernatural force called Gle (or Ge, as referenced by the northern Dan). 
Reed (2003) has claimed no one person can “succeed in finding a total single definition” of Gle because it encompasses a history, a system and a philosophy in Dan thought. Therefore, only aspects of its practices are easily understood, most readily the masked performances. 
Johnson (1986) has divided Gle masks into two broad categories: the dean gle and the bu gle. Variations of dean gle are reserved for initiations and entertainment, while the different types of bu gle masks are associated with warriors and leadership.  According to Reed (2003), the importance of a Gle is determined by the specific yinannu (translation) ascribed to it, each of which is further subdivided by three sets of yinannu (plural: yinan): one to inspire joy and dance, a second to enable reading a person’s destiny, and a third to ensure success at war. One Gle called Kong is presided solely by women and is responsible for initiation, excision, childbirth and other such matters traditionally assumed to be the remit of women. 
This object is likely a dean gle, varieties of which are characterised by an oval head, slit rectangular eyes, metal strips for teeth, a jutting lower lip, which combined form an “idealised Dan form of beauty”.  A small bell stringed to two metal clappers hangs just below the jawline, which is defined by an incised line with holes to which accoutrements such as feathers and/or cowries could be attached.
A musical accompaniment — in addition to wearing a mask (wooden or metallic) and the clothing (variously made of raffia, furs and feathers) — is fundamental to the manifestation of Gle. This could include percussionists, dancers, singers, and “power” objects, all of which activates the performance, thereby transforming the human embodiment into both masquerade and a spirit. 
Sabo Kpade, April 2023
 Barbara C. Johnson, Four Dan Sculptors: Continuity and Change (Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, 1986), p.12.
 Daniel B. Reed, Dan Ge Performance: Masks and Music in Contemporary Côte d’Ivoire. African Expressive Cultures (Indiana University Press, 2003).
 Johnson, p.12.
 Reed, p.79.
 Johnson, p.7.
 Reed, p. 87.
Fischer, Eberhard, and Hans Himmelheber. 2014. Dan Artists : The Sculptors Tame, Si, Tompieme and Sõn : Their Personalities and Work. Scheidegger & Spiess.
Johnson, Barbara C. 1986. Four Dan Sculptors : Continuity and Change. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.
Reed, Daniel B. 2003. Dan Ge Performance : Masks and Music in Contemporary Côte d’Ivoire. African Expressive Cultures. Indiana University Press.
Purchased by Robert and Lisa Sainsbury from Herbert F. Rieser in 1970.
Donated to the Sainsbury Centre, University of East Anglia in 1973 as part of the original gift.
Not on display
Title/Description: Dan Mask
Born: 1900 - 1999
Object Type: Mask
Measurements: h. 285 x w. 95 x d. 52 mm
Accession Number: 210
Historic Period: 20th century
Cultural Group: Dan
Credit Line: Donated by Robert and Lisa Sainsbury, 1973
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