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Face Mask (Gunyege)

Artist/Maker: Dan people (Ivory Coast and Liberia)

Date: early 20th century
Medium: wood, stain, aluminum, iron and encrustation
Overall: 8 7/8 x 5 3/4 x 2 5/8 in. (22.5 x 14.6 x 6.7 cm)
Classification: Clothing, Accessories and Jewelry
Credit Line: Gift of Alan Potamkin
Object number: 2007.48.95
DescriptionGunyege is worn in a masquerade in which the young men in the village race each other to see who is fastest. The winner then has the right to wear the gunyege mask in the next race since it is believed that the mask’s spirit has deserted the previous winner in favor of someone new. Thus, gunyege functions as a trophy. In form, the mask is oval and displays the idealized beauty typical of many Dan masks, especially those with slit eyes. But unlike the slit-eyed masks, masks with round eyes are considered aggressive and masculine, a quality most appropriate for a mask used in the highly competitive races. The metal around the eyes enhances the effect of a glaring, threatening gaze.
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