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. Deangle mask, shown here, is a rather naturalistic mask with recognizably human features, representing a forest spirit. These masks with oval faces and slit or circular eyes portray a gentle, peaceful type of spirit whose attributes and behavior are feminine although it has moustache. The forehead of this mask is 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