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Mask with Hinged Jaw (Bu Gle)

Arts of Africa

Historically, Dan society vested political leadership in a council of elders. Masks served as agents of social control, enforcing the council’s rules and orders. The masked figures were believed to be incarnate spiritual beings capable of rendering unbiased judgments. The specific functions of individual masks, once removed from their village contexts, are impossible to determine. Here, the nearly closed eyes and small mouth contrast with those of other masks and probably indicate that this example served in a peacemaking function and generally created harmony in the community. On the other hand, the form of the bu gle mask (no. 2) with projecting eyes and mouth was designed to be deliberately frightening.
CULTURE Dan
MEDIUM Wood, organic material, monkey skin, iron nails
  • Place Made: Africa
  • DATES 19th century
    DIMENSIONS 10 1/4 x 5 1/8 x 5 1/2 in. (26.0 x 13.0 x 14.0 cm)  (show scale)
    COLLECTIONS Arts of Africa
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    ACCESSION NUMBER 2000.38.2
    CREDIT LINE Gift of Blake Robinson
    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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    CAPTION Dan. Mask with Hinged Jaw (Bu Gle), 19th century. Wood, organic material, monkey skin, iron nails, 10 1/4 x 5 1/8 x 5 1/2 in. (26.0 x 13.0 x 14.0 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Blake Robinson, 2000.38.2. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 2000.38.2_transpc003.jpg)
    IMAGE overall, 2000.38.2_transpc003.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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