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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?


Collection of Jay C. Leff; purchased at auction at Sotheby Parke-Bernet by Jacob Fass on October 11, 1975 (Sale #3451, Lot #209); gift to Fairfield University 2003; transferred to the Fairfield University Art Museum collection in 2018.


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Refers to coverings for all or part of the face, usually with openings for the eyes and sometimes the mouth. They are worn to hide or alter the identity of the wearer or for protection. Masks as cultural objects have been used throughout the world in all periods since the Stone Age. Masks are extremely varied in appearance, function, and fundamental meaning. They may be associated with ceremonies that have religious and social significance or are concerned with funerary customs, fertility rites, or curing sickness. They may be used on festive occasions or to portray characters in a dramatic performance and in re-enactments of mythological events. They may be used for warfare and as protective devices in certain sports. They are also employed as architectural ornaments.
public domain
Land owned and controlled by the state or federal government. Also, the status of publications, products, and processes that are not protected under patent or copyright.

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