Kagle (Animal Mask)

Kaogle (Monkey Mask)

By: Adenike Cosgrove Tagged:


The Dan believe that ‘in’ and 'behind’ this world exists an essential force called which is usually described as a power that is present in all aspects of the world. manifests itself as invisible spirits which may take the form of men or animals. There are some spirits which in order to realise a physical nature, must rely on men to create a tangible form for them as masks or figures. The causes a man to dream of it and then instructs him in the means through which it must be materialised. One type of spirit prefers to be manifested as a masquerade - these are the mask spirits.

All spirit masks are described as ge by the northern Dan and as gle or glö by the southern & western Dan (meaning ‘mysterious being’). These masquerade spirits wish to help men and to advise them, revealing their desire through dreams. The masquerade does not merely represent a spirit, it IS that spirit. Every spirit masquerade has a proper name (e.g. wuti = black antelope / slü = falcon / gao = diana monkey). In addition, they often have another title / a praise name or one which explains the function or significance of the masquerade.

The kagle mask is today worn to entertain the village and generate a lively and festive mood by throwing sticks into crowds whilst dancing. It is believed that the kagle masquerade was once responsible for "exciting the town in preparation for battle" (Tompieme 1983). Kagle masks are made to look like a variety of animals, each with its own name.

For more, see the article on ‘Masquerades Among the Dan People’ on the Art & Life in Africa website, hosted by the University of Iowa Museum of Art (UIMA) HERE.

Distinguishing Features

Common features among all kagle masks:2

    • Made of wood
    • Triangular eye holes
    • Protruding disc-like or triangular cheekbones
    • Overhanging brow
    • Large open mouth
    • No chin

Sub-type variations (Kaogle - Monkey Mask):

    • Deep set triangular or tubular eyes
    • Forehead is very low but bulges significantly over cheeks
    • Cheekbones are usually pyramid in shape
    • Large protruding mouth with no lips (sometimes has teeth)
    • Meant to look like chimpanzees

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