Among the Dan people, masks are not controlled by a men’s association, but instead are owned by families and used by individual lineage members in contexts of social control, boy’s circumcision camps, and entertainment. Visually, the Dan masqueraders show an opposition between female beauty and gentleness and male fierceness and power. T
he Deangle mask, presented here, is a naturalistic mask with human features, representing a female forest spirit. These masks with slit or circular eyes portray a gentle, peaceful type of spirit whose attributes and behavior are feminine. The forehead and nose of this mask are bisected by a vertical ridge that reflects a former custom of decorating with a vertical tattoo band. When the deangle masks are used in the boy’s circumcision camp located in a sacred forest grove, their function is to provide the boys with a calm surrogate feminine presence and to instruct boys in adult male responsibilities, social roles, and proper behavior. In such a context, masquerades serve as devices of learning, as well as facilitate the initiate’s access to the knowledge and secrets controlled by the most powerful male elders.
A stand for this mask is available separately