Dan Guere Poyagle Mask 0361
- Tribe: Dan Guere
- Origin: Cote D'ivoire / Liberia
- Approx Age: 1950 - 1960
- Materials: wood, metal bells & teeth, mud cloth, leather & other material?
- Dimensions cm: 43 tall x 31 wide
- Ref. Number: 0361
A superb and very rare Dan Guere Poyagle mask collected from a small remote village west of Bangolo in Cote D’ivoire (Ivory Coast). This is such a rare piece even to where it is native as this mask only comes out every 10 years to cast out a blessing over the village and to drive away evil spirits that cause famine, endemic disease and drought. This mask when not in use is wrapped in cloth and stored in the chiefs hut along with other precious pieces that are owned by the village community. This has been extremely well looked after as it is estimated by the elders of the village that it exceeds 50 years old and it is in good condition , although it has had a repair on the back of the mask itself. All the “Kwi” spikes are all intact, the one bell has lost a little of its paint / pigment, there are 4 bells that look alike but only one clapper in one bell is now present and the bell in the centre that is of a different type that also rattles. I am very unsure of the white material on top of the mask, it seems similar to cotton wool but is not. The teeth are metal shards, it has a strip of leather / animal skin on its top lip and secured around the spike under its nose.
Masks are empowered by the strongest of supernatural spirit forces, called gle. Like dii, gle inhabit the dark forest, particularly where the trees grow high and dense. Gle long to enter into and participate in the ordered world of the village but, being invisible, cannot until a visible form for each is made. The nature of that form, a mask and complete masquerade ensemble meant to represent the personality of the gle, is seen in a dream. In addition, the gle must reveal its intended function in the dream or that dream is considered useless. The dreamer, who must be an initiated member of the men’s society, reports the dream to the council of elders. They then decide whether the masquerade ensemble should be created for that man to wear and perform.
The carver carves the wooden face, and this is accompanied by attire that includes forest materials such as raffia, feathers, and fur. It is believed that each gle has its own personality, character, dance, speech patterns, likes, and dislikes, and it is given a personal name. The wearer of the mask takes on all these characteristics and qualities when he wears the mask ensemble. Having come from the unknown realm of the dark forest, a gle is thought to be unpredictable. Therefore it always has an attendant with it to control it as well as to interpret its speech.
Gle can be divided into two broad categories: that ofdeangle, gentle, peaceful gle, which have no gender, but whose qualities are thought of as feminine; and that of bugle, gun or war gle named after the sound of the gunshot (Tabmen 1971,18), whose qualities are thought of as masculine. A third category,
gle va, are “big” or “great” gle that have risen to importance, and can be either deangle or bugle in form.
Apart from these general statements, it is difficult to classify the many forms of mask gle to correlate form with function. The individuality of gle make this so. A gle in mask form, which might look very similar to another, could have different characteristics and therefore different functions, even in the same village. Furthermore, there might be changes in function during one gle’s lifespan, which is often several generations long. A new face mask could be carved to replace a worn out or damaged mask for the same gle. Confusion also enters with the many different names given to each gle. A gle is given a personal name (e.g., Slii, “Hawk”; Ble, “Termite”; or Korto, “You don’t make farm,” meaning the gle distracts one from normal work) and one or more praise names (e.g., Zuku, “Amazing”; or Sadhoplo, literally, the palm leaf funnel that enables one to pour palm wine, meaning that the gle enables one to
achieve success). The gle also may be called various names that denote its functions or physical characteristics, or even names that distinguish it by the traditional implements it carries. One gle may have seven or eight names.
In spite of the possibility of such variations, the following range of known functions may be assigned to the most common mask forms of the Dan.