Dan mask

IHC 0917-1

Dan Diomande ‘fire runner mask’, Ivory Coast, Liberia

This fine, old mask is a so-called ‘fire runner’, or ‘Zakpäi’ mask, as they are also known among the Dan peoples. They are worn by young men who, acting as a kind of ‘fire brigade’, run through the village extinguishing burning stove fires while women are working in the fields. Stylistically, this is a classic fire runner mask made from hard, brown wood and dyed black and red. It has a high, bulging forehead and round, circular shaped eyes, a wide, short nose and a wide, open mouth covered by a furry beard. Around the eyes and the red area a brass ribbon is attached resembling a mask within the mask. This piece is an excellent, old mask with noticeable traces of use and only some small age-related damages (color abrasion and a minimal crack on the back rim. It has a very beautiful, black antique shiny patina on the front and back.

The Diomande are a subgroup and are closely related to the Dan. They belong to the so-called Dan cluster – the Dan Mano, Dan Kran, Dan Mau etc. The Diomande use very similar types of mask to the Dan. However, the deep, incised lines of the scarification marks that surround the entire edge of the face are characteristic of the masks of the Dan Diomande – as is seen on the present mask.

Dimension: H: 29 cm., W: 13 cm., D: 8 cm.

Age: First half of the 20th century.

Provenance: CO Hultén Private Collection of African Tribal Art, Sweden. Acquired in the 1950s

Exhibited: Magins Hjärta, Gallery Asley 1997, Utterberg, Sweden

Literature: Fischer & Himmelheber, Die Kunst der Dan, Rietberg Museum, Zürich.

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