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Unknown Maker
Face Mask (Zakpai or Gunyege) Face Mask (Zakpai or Gunyege)
20th century 20th century

For the Dan, a mask is a manifestation of a forest spirit. When a spirit decides to intervene in human affairs, it selects a villager to impersonate it through appearing in a dream. With the information thus gained, the chosen person commissions a mask from a carver. Eleven different mask types have been identified, and a mask can acquire new functions with the addition of other materials.

The similarity in style makes it difficult to distinguish between zakpai and gunyege masks without contextual information. Zakpai means a fire-extinguishing mask. As winter is the dry season in Côte d¿Ivoire and Liberia, fire is a constant threat, and the masker appears around noon on winter days, accompanied by children, to ensure that all fires are extinguished. The large tubular eye-holes here are typical of zakpai and would have been framed with tin sheeting, as remaining metal fragments here might indicate. A red cloth over the face and a short costume of raffia and green leaves complete the apparel of the zakpai masker.

Gunyege means `house-spirit,¿ a force considered to help a runner in a race. The mask is worn in a race between two boys of similar age but from different households.

 
Unknown Maker
Dan peoples Dan peoples
Face Mask (Zakpai or Gunyege) Face Mask (Zakpai or Gunyege)
20th century 20th century
wood, metal wood, metal
height / width / depth: 22.40 x 13.10 x 6.00 cm; 8.82 x 5.16 x 2.36 in.
Gift of Justin and Elisabeth Lang, 1984 Gift of Justin and Elisabeth Lang, 1984
M84-401

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