Dan Yacouba Mask
Carved wood with hinged mouth. Cowrie shells, human hair and woven fabric
32 x 24 x 13cm
The Dan are a Mande ethnic group from northwestern Ivory Coast and neighbouring Liberia. There are approximately 700,000 members of the group and their largest settlement is Man, Ivory Coast. Neighbouring peoples include the Krahn, Kpelle and Mano. They are officially known as Yacouba (or Yakouba) in Ivory Coast. In Liberia, they are also known as Gio (Bassa for “slave”), which is considered a derogatory exonym.
Yacouba speak the Dan language, a Southeast Mande language. The Dan are known for their art, and in particular their mask rituals (Ge or Gle), as well as their secret society, Gor. Gor (Dan for “leopard”) is a peacemaking society, not to be confused with the brutal Ekpe (leopard) society of Nigeria.
The Dan originally came from the western Sudan region to the north, part of present-day Mali and Guinea. The location and movements of the Dan, Mano and We can be reconstructed from as early as the 8th century , at which time the Dan and Mano were located in the savanna region of the northern Ivory Coast. In the tenth century, political turmoil, population growth and land depletion caused the Dan to migrate south of the Nimba range and into the high forests.