Tankagle (Entertainment 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 tankagle masquerade (also called takega) is the character whose name means ‘dancing, miming masquerade’. Such masks are used to entertain the audience with varied dances, sometimes with playing little scenes or singing. If the masquerade specialises as a singer, it’s called gle sö.

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

    • Made of wood
    • Faces similar to deangle (see deangle) but larger and carved in more details
    • Tiny horns carved in forehead or ears carved at the sides of the mask
    • Some feature ridges around the face
    • Narrow slitted eyes (often painted white or framed with metal appliqué)
    • Some have heavy eyelids above the slits
    • Some have moustaches
    • Wears the komo headdress with applied decorations including the bla ka (strip of goat skin covered with cowrie shells)

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