Mask (Primary Title)

Unknown (Artist)

19th-20th century
wood, hair, fiber, clay
Côte d'Ivoire, Liberia
Overall: 22 × 6 1/2 × 10 in. (55.9 × 16.5 × 25.4 cm)

Masks made by the Dan people represent forest spirits that are believed to live in the mountains. For the benefit of the community, the spirits take on the form of a mask in human or animal form. They “speak” in growls, croaks, and twitters that have to be interpreted by a person who understands their “language.”

This handsome example still has its original hair attached. Textile garments, fringe, beads, and other accessories were once tied onto the mask through the holes around the mask’s rim.

Adolph D. and Wilkins C. Williams Fund
“Mystery.” Richmond, VA: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. 6 October -30 December 2007

African Exhibition, Fine Arts Center, Lynchburg, VA. 29 April - 8 May 1979.
Hazard, Carol. “Look Inside ‘Mystery’.” Richmond Times-Dispatch. December 17, 2007.

Meggs, Philip B. A History of Graphic Design. Second Edition. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1992. (illus. 16.2, p. 239)

“Mystery and Merriment at the Virginia Museum.” Richmond Free Press. December 27-29, 2007

Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. “Mystery.” Richmond, VA: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. 6 October -30 December 2007. (Invitation and flyer)

Richard B. Woodward, African Art (Richmond, VA: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, 1994) pp. 76-78, ill.

Bonnie V. Winston, “’Mystery’ Exhibition Opens Oct. 6 at VMFA,” Richmond Free Press, Oct. 4-6, 2007, color ill. p. B4.
Image released via Creative Commons CC-BY-NC

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