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Dan Go Ge mask

Dan Go Ge mask
Dan Go Ge maskDan Go Ge maskDan Go Ge maskDan Go Ge mask
Tribe: Dan (Yakuba)
Country: Ivory Coast
Ritual: Judiciary / Arbitration
Name: Go Ge
Materials: Wood, horse hair, rope, nails, cowrie shells, burlap, cloth, kaolin
Provenance: Primal Art Source, Amitin and Attia Zouhir 1981. Ralph Proctor Gallery, Pittsburgh 1981-2003. Andrew Turley, SuagaCollection 2002.
Comments: Age estimated by Candice Ranelli at the Ralph Proctor Gallery at pre 1940'.

Of the eleven formal Dan masks, each individual mask has its own name and is worn by a definite person. During religious holidays they are accompanied by music for entertainment if they are of "lower rank". Or they feature in the ritual procession if they are of higher rank. The higher rank masks are used for administering justice, establishing order, and security.

The age, fineness, patination and adaptation of this mask suggests that it may have gained status over the years, as its owner has, or as it has been passed on - as some Dan masks do. It is possible that this mask has been elevated to a Go Ge mask, belonging to the Go secret society and is worn to make solemn announcements and important social arbitrations. The features of these masks vary from one village to the next, as they have had different initial purpose, but the mask is usually larger and has an elaborately plaited coiffure.

This mask has a fine brown, smooth patina indicative of the northern Dan but interestingly it has an arabic nose, large and downward sweeping as opposed to smaller and straight bottomed. It also has some other interesting features.

It has a finely patterned ridge in the middle of the forehead and the same patterns in a 'V' shaped formation at the outside of the eyes (both are well worn and smooth). The slit eyes show ancient remnants of kaolin. Many of these features are indicative of the Deangle mask.

But an elaborate plaited coiffure has been added to the mask - over the top of the already worn forehead and eye ridges - made of plaited horse or human hair and edged by tightly plaited rope that closely resembles the pattern of the carving. It does not have a typical headband of cowrie shells but is attached to a conical hat.

This is one of my favourite pieces with a fine depth of character and spirit.


  1. A History of African Art, Harry. N. Abrams Inc Publisher NY 2001.
  2. African Masks of the Barbier Mueller Collection. Prestel Verlag Munich. 1998.
  3. Nyon Nea Mask. Utah Museum of Fine Arts. 2001.
  4. The Tribal Arts of Africa, J.B. Bacquart. 1998.
  5. African Sculpture Speaks. Ladislas Segy.1975.