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African, Asian, and Islamic Art

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Dan Poro Society Mask

Artist: Unknown Ivoirian Artist Primary
Dimensions: 10 x 6 in. (25.4 x 15.24 cm)
Object Type: Mask
Creation Place: Africa, Côte d’Ivoire
Medium and Support: Wood
Credit Line: Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Fass
Accession Number: 2018.07.01
On View: Bellarmine Hall Galleries

The Dan people are an ethno-cultural group living in Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia in West Africa. Masks like these were sometimes used in the initiations and ceremonies for poro, a men’s secret society. This particular type of mask was worn by Dan women to prevent them from seeing boys prior to their circumcision (an important ritual of initiation for Dan men).

Once an object is removed from its original cultural context it is very hard to know the intent of the maker. Was this mask carved for traditional ceremonial purposes? Or was it made to sell as a decorative object or souvenir for someone outside the community?

Sotheby Parke-Bernet, Oct 10-11, 1975, lot 209, ex. Coll. Jay C. Leff by Jacob Fass; 2003 gift to Fairfield University.

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