Masquerades Among the Dan People

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

Zo greeting a deangle mask, Dan peoples, Liberia. February 1986. Photo by William Siegmann.

The man in white on the left is the zo of another mask and has come to greet the deangle mask seated in the center. The mask zoes, their wearers and their attendants comprise an informal council which regulates all aspects of the interaction between the masks and the public. For the Dan, masking is an interaction between the world of spirits and the human world. The mask is not a spirit but a vehicle for a spirit to make itself present and known to men. The zo and the masqueraders are the agents of the spirit, which, in return for making it visible to the world of humans, brings wealth, fame and power to these agents.