Skip Navigation

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.
MEDIUM Wood, organic material, monkey skin, iron nails
  • Place Made: Liberia
  • 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
    ACCESSION NUMBER 2000.38.2
    CREDIT LINE Gift of Blake Robinson
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    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
    "CUR" at the beginning of an image file name means that the image was created by a curatorial staff member. These study images may be digital point-and-shoot photographs, when we don\'t yet have high-quality studio photography, or they may be scans of older negatives, slides, or photographic prints, providing historical documentation of the object.
    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
    You may download and use Brooklyn Museum images of this three-dimensional work in accordance with a Creative Commons license. Fair use, as understood under the United States Copyright Act, may also apply. Please include caption information from this page and credit the Brooklyn Museum. If you need a high resolution file, please fill out our online application form (charges apply). For further information about copyright, we recommend resources at the United States Library of Congress, Cornell University, Copyright and Cultural Institutions: Guidelines for U.S. Libraries, Archives, and Museums, and Copyright Watch. For more information about the Museum's rights project, including how rights types are assigned, please see our blog posts on copyright. If you have any information regarding this work and rights to it, please contact
    Not every record you will find here is complete. More information is available for some works than for others, and some entries have been updated more recently. Records are frequently reviewed and revised, and we welcome any additional information you might have.