Rare Dan Guere Spoon
- Tribe: Dan Guere
- Origin: Cote D'ivoire (Ivory Coast)
- Approx Age: 50-55 years old as of 2014
- Materials: wood
- Dimensions cm: 65 long x 19 wide (widest point)
- Ref. Number: 0523
A very rare Dan Guere spoon, this beautiful piece is very different to a “wake mia or wunkirmian”, as this is not a feasting spoon but one only ever used for agricultural rites ceremonies. Once an agricultural ceremony is arranged and in place this spoon has a scoop like place on the handle that libations are poured.This is as much information I was able to gather when acquiring the spoon from the village elder. This was field collected from a Guere village in the “Man” region of Cote D’ivoire. The elders of the village estimate this at 50-55 years old.
This is a Dan carver preparing a spoon for the honouring of the most hospitable woman in the village
Dan “wake mia or wunkirmian” spoon information.
Artists in Dan communities of the Guinea coast have mastered the art of carving impressive, large wooden spoons that
are virtuoso works of sculpture. The spoons are known by many names, including wake mia or wunkirmian, which
roughly translates as “spoon associated with feasts.” The spoons range in size from a foot to two feet and have one or
(rarely) two parallel bowls. The handle of the spoon is always decorated and often is related to the human form and
often feature a pair of legs like this example.
Among the Dan, the owner of the spoon is called wa ke de, “at feasts acting woman.” It is a title of great distinction that
is given to the most hospitable woman of the village. With the honor, however, comes responsibility—the wa ke de must
prepare the large feast that accompanies masquerade ceremonies. The excellent farming abilities, organizational
talents, and culinary skills of the wa ke de are called upon to properly welcome and celebrate the masquerade spirits.
When a woman has been selected as the main hostess of such a feast, she parades through town carrying the large
spoon as an emblem of her status. On the day of the feast, she dances around the village dressed in men’s clothes
because “only men are taken seriously.” She carries with her a wunkirmian and displays a bowl filled with small coins or
rice. With help from her numerous assistants (usually female relatives or friends), she distributes grains and coins to the
children of the community while dancing and singing her special shrill song. The deep belly of the spoon from which this
bounty is dispensed becomes the symbolic body or womb of the female figure. The event creates a profound visual
analogy that honors the hostess, and women in general, as a source of food and life.
In addition to being emblems of honor, wunkirmian also have spiritual power. They are a Dan woman’s chief liaison with
the power of the spirit world and a symbol of that connection. Among the Dan, the wunkirmian have been assigned a
role among women that is comparable to that which masks serve among the men. In many instances, wunkirmian are
featured in the same ceremonies with masks, tossing rice in front of them as a blessing while they proceed through the
Reference: Metropolitan Museum of Art