Hunter's mask (dannana)

Dogon peoples
20th–mid 20th century
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General Description

Numerous masks representing the people, animals, and things in the Dogon world since the Creation appear at dama, a six-day commemorative funerary masquerade held every several years for important male elders. According to Dogon mythology, in the beginning there was no death, and masking was controlled by women. The dama masquerade commemorates the first death and reinforces male superiority, which was established when men learned the secret of masking and were thus empowered. One mask is the hunter, whose fierceness, skill, and cunning are represented by a bulging forehead and an open mouth with protruding teeth, which are missing from this mask. The prominent forehead, arrow-shaped nose, and a projecting mouth are all common to Dogon figurative art. Old masks like this one are coated with layers of sacrificial material. The headpiece was completed with a hood made of woven hibiscus fibers, and the hunter holds a short sword in one hand and a spear in the other. Because the Dogon believe that game animals are overpowered by magical means, hunters are also magicians.

Adapted from

  • Bonnie Pitman, ed., "Hunter's mask (dannana)," in Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2012), 62.

  • African Masks: The Art of Disguise, DMA unpublished material.

Web Resources

African Masks: The Art of Disguise
Learn more about this mask.