Primary Source

Dan Passport Masks, Liberia / Cote d'Ivoire [Object]

Annotation

This small, mask ( 9.5 cm high and 5 cm wide) carved from wood is called a "passport" mask because it was worn on the body, kept in a leather pouch, or sewn onto a piece of cloth to represent group or family affiliation. Passport masks are used by the Dan people, a group of several hundred thousand people in the western part of the Côte d’Ivoire and into Liberia. They live in a forested region bordering the savannah in the north, for whom farming cocoa, coffee, rice and manioc, and hunting game and fish provide rural livelihoods. Each village is governed by a chief and council of elders. Both boys and girls receive formal recognition of their adulthood and readiness for marriage by participating in initiation rituals. Specific teachings, a period of time in seclusion in the bush for boys, and circumcision rituals for both genders are included in the rites of passage. The masks are miniature copies of family masks which act as witnesses to initiation ceremonies and are believed to offer protection like amulets when their owner is away from home. 1

1 Elizabeth Skidmore Sasser, The world of spirits and ancestors in the art of western sub-Saharan Africa (Lubbock, TX: Texas Tech University Press, 1995), 83-84.

Source

Photo of Dan Passport mask from The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Dan people of Liberia and Cote d'Ivoire, Accession number B06.2374, http://www.imj.org.il/imagine/collections/item.asp?itemNum=324035 (accessed March 5, 2009). Annotated by Susan Douglass.

How to Cite This Source

"Dan Passport Masks, Liberia / Cote d'Ivoire [Object]," in Children and Youth in History, Item #427, http://chnm.gmu.edu/cyh/primary-sources/427 (accessed September 19, 2014).