Childhood

By Allen F. Roberts
University of California, Los Angeles (formerly University of Iowa)

Côte d’Ivoire; Diomande peoples

Gegon (mask)

Wood, cloth, shell, metal, feathers

H. 64.1 cm. (25”)

The University of Iowa Museum of Art, The Stanley Collection, X1986.574

Even more basically, as James Fernandez suggests, “it is doubtful that we could ever really adequately know our own identity as humans if we did not have the 'other animals' as a frame for our own activity and reflectivity” (1995: 8). To demonstrate the closeness of this relationship, initiands often don masks and become animals, thus learning more about their own humanity. Here a Diomande mask danced by the leader of boys' initiation combines human features with the long beak of a hornbill, deemed among the first and wisest beings on earth and the ones who introduced oil palms to the local economy.

Mask, Dan peoples, Liberia. February 1986. Photo by William Siegmann.