The University of Iowa University of Iowa

Masquerades Among the Dan People

by William Siegmann (1943 - 2011)
Formerly The Brooklyn Museum

Dan artist, Liberia. Woman with wunkirmian. February, 1986. Photo by William Siegmann.

Dan women do not actively participate in masks performances but remain on the sidelines as observers. On occasions when the masks perform, however, women also commonly perform with their own sculptural forms, which symbolize their own prestige and the importance of women in the community. Large spoons known as wunkirmian are carved for women who are recognized by other women of a town as the most hospitable person in a community.  The spoons serve as symbol of that status and are used as a kind of dance wand when the honored women dances through the town accompanied by her own entourage of women.