Image: African Mask E76256

African Mask E76256

A mask of Dan people from Ivory Coast.

The Dan people now live in north-eastern Liberia and Ivory Coast in West Africa. A concept of immortal spirits plays an important part in their traditional beliefs. According to this tradition spirits or souls inhabit all living creatures. When a person or animal dies, their spirit moves to a new being. Some spirits remain without a body and they dwell in the forest and wilderness. The village is a familiar ‘domesticated’ world where spirits are friendly. The bush is different. For a person to venture beyond the village is perilous because the spiritual world of the bush is out of human control. These spirits need to be appeased. Frequently a spirit will choose a person to ‘dance the spirit,’ using a mask as its embodiment.

Stan Florek
© Australian Museum

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