Rare Dan Guere Spoon
Origin: Ivory Coast
Approx Age: Mid 20th Century
Dimensions cm: 65 long x 19 (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 in which libations would be poured.
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 honours the hostess, and women in general, as a source of food and life.
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