The 350,000 Dan occupy the wooded savannah region of western Cote d'Ivoire and, to a lesser degree, the east of Liberia; one also finds a few Dan villages in southeast Guinea. Traditionally cultivators of rice and manioc, the Dan also work immense cacao and coffee plantations. Farmers periodically clear the forest to add more land to their fields. They also live off game hunting and fishing. The Dan society was not centralized. Every village is under the authority of a chief and a council of elders. In order to attain adult status, all the boys and girls of the same age group undergo an initiation that includes specific teaching and circumcision. Dan figures, which were commissioned by powerful chiefs as three-dimensional portraits of their favorite spouse function as maternity figures and symbolize the fertility not only of the women, but also of the earth. They do not represent ancestors or spirits. These statues are kept hidden inside houses and are only revealed during special ceremonies.
Provenance: Raskin Private Collection