Dating powder horns
In addition, there were male associations that attempted to bring about a socio-political unity, reinforcing rules of behavior, demanding absolute loyalty and obedience from members, and giving an initiatory education to the young.
These societies called upon the tutelary spirits of the bush.
Farmers periodically clear the forest to add more land to their fields. In order to attain adult status, all the boys and girls of the same age group undergo an initiation that includes specific teaching and circumcision for the former and the clitoridectomy for the latter.
The 350,000 Dan live mostly in the western part of the Cte d’Ivoire and into Liberia, where the land is forested in the south and bordered by a savannah in the north.
Nonetheless, the great masks live on, their even more rare appearances being reserved for times of tension, when it is important they may exercise their role of social control and their faculty to reduce conflict or settle legal wrangles.
The Dan also carried small masks (less than 8”), which are sometimes called ‘passport’ masks.
The go master, the head of the like-named society possesses the masks and guards them in a sacred hut.
All Dan masks are sacred; they do not represent spirits of the wilderness, they are these spirits.