Bird Mask

Accession Number

Bird Mask


Object Creation Date
20th century

Medium & Support

14 ½ in x 6 in x 4 in (36.83 cm x 15.24 cm x 10.16 cm)

Credit Line
Gift of Michael and Phyllis Courlander

Subject matter

Masks, or ge, serve as central cultural objects in Dan life, translating spirits originating in the wilderness into physical form. The masculine ge gon can take form in a bird mask, represented with a beak. This form of mask was originally used to represent wisdom, and to teach male initiates about the past, though it now serves as a form of entertainment in performance accompanied with bird-like dance movements. Masks are worn with fiber costumes during performance. Masquerades are closely aligned with men and male initiation societies. Women are forbidden to talk about mask beings, to watch mask making, or preparation for performance.



Jedrej, M. C. "Dan and Mende Masks: A Structural Comparison." Africa 56, no. 1 (1986).

Metropolitan Museum of Art. Museum label for Bird Mask (Ge Gon). New York, NY.

Reed, Daniel B. “Pop Goes the Sacred: Dan Mask Performance and Popular Culture in Postcolonial Côte d'Ivoire.” Africa Today 48, no. 4 (2001).

Eberhard Fischer and Lorenz Homberger. African Masters: Art from the Ivory Coast. Zurich: Museum Rietberg, 2014.  


Physical Description
Bird mask with an elongated beak that is decorated with a carved geometric design. The mask has a protruding nose, forehead, and eyes. The top of the mask has a carved geometric design and a bent nail embedded into the top. 

Primary Object Classification

Primary Object Type

Collection Area

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judicial functions
law enforcing
spirits (beings)

& Author Notes

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