TITLE: Dan Gunye Ge Mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Côte d’Ivoire
DESCRIPTION: Gunye Ge (Racing) Mask
CEREMONY: Entertainment; Spirit Invocation
AGE: Late 20th century
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: burlap; cowrie shells; raffia fiber; iron bells; cotton wadding; string; kaolin clay
The Dan people are a large ethnic group inhabiting Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire. One important tradition among the Dan is the weekly foot race, held in the dry season. Racers wear masks like this one (gunye ge) to invoke bush spirits that will speed them along. Typically, a masked racer will chase an unmasked one and, if he catches him, gets to keep the mask. If not, the bush spirit did not favor him, and he must unmasked. The unmasked runner, in turn, puts on his own mask and chases another unmasked competitor. The runner with the most wins at the end of the dry season is declared the victor.
For more on Dan masks, see Eberhard Fischer, Dan Forest Spirits: Masks in Dan Villages, AFRICAN ARTS, Vol. 11, No. 2, pp. 16-23 (1978).