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Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

Mask (Ga Wree Wree)

Photo: Paul Macapia

Mask (Ga Wree Wree)

1850 - 1980

Time travel is evoked by this weathered mask -- one might wish the bells could ring and take us back to when it appeared in its prime. We could witness the masquerader presiding over a court of heated debate, giving serious attention to his role as a judge who "could stop all war."

A spray of hairpins crown this judge's face, and were donated to him by women of the community. A very similar Dan mask was observed demanding impeccable behavior by scholar Robert Farris Thompson in 1967. He went on to write, "Order can, of course, be imposed by brute authority. But traditional Dan seek social control achieved through artistic and philosophic means -- through a cult of masks."
Wood, teeth, bone, metal, cowrie shells, bells, beads, fiber, netting, and cloth
19 11/16 x 12 1/2 x 11 in. (50 x 31.8 x 28 cm)
Gift of Katherine White and the Boeing Company
Provenance: [Merton D. Simpson, New York]; sold to Katherine White (1929-1980), Seattle, Washington, 1968; bequeathed to Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, Washington, 1981
Photo: Paul Macapia
Not currently on view


Exhibition HistoryCleveland, Ohio, the Cleveland Museum of Art, African Tribal Images: The Katherine White Reswick Collection, July 10-September 1, 1968; the University of Pennsylvania Museum, October 10-December 1, 1968

Brooklyn, New York, the Brooklyn Museum, African Sculpture, 1970.

Los Angeles, California, Frederick S. Wight Art Gallery, University of California, African Art in Motion: Icon and Act, January 20-March 17, 1974; National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., April 21-July 30, 1974.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Art from Africa: Long Steps Never Broke A Back, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Wadsworth Atheneum, Cincinnati Art Museum, Frist Center for the Visual Arts, February 7, 2002 - April 30, 2006

Seattle, Wash., Seattle Art Museum, Disguise: Masks and Global African Art, June 18–Sept. 7, 2015 (Los Angeles, Calif., UCLA, Fowler Museum of Cultural History, Oct. 18, 2015–Mar. 13, 2016; Brooklyn, N.Y., Brooklyn Museum, Apr. 29–Sept. 18, 2016).

Published ReferencesThe Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio, African Tribal Images: The Katherine White Reswick Collection, 1968, no. 58

The Brooklyn Museum, New York, New York, African Sculpture, Michael Kan, 1970, p. 49 exhibition catalog

University of California Press, Berkley and Los Angeles, California, African Art in Motion: Icon and Act, Robert Farris Thompson, 1974, p. 158, plate color VII, exhibition catalog

Seattle Art Museum, Praise Poems: The Katherine White Collection, 1984, no. 44 exhibition catalog

McClusky, Pamela. African Art: From Crocodiles to Convertibles in the Collection of the Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, WA: Seattle Art Museum, 1987, no. 14, pp. 26-27

Cameron, Elisabeth L. Men Portraying Women: Representations in African Masks, in African Arts, Vol. 31, No. 2 (Special Issue: Women's Masquerades in Africa and the Diaspora), Spring 1998, pp. 72, 79, illus. p. 79

McClusky, Pamela, Art from Africa: Long Steps Never Broke A Back, Seattle Art Museum, 2002, pg. 184

Seattle Art Museum respectfully acknowledges that we are on Indigenous land, the traditional territories of the Coast Salish people. We honor our ongoing connection to these communities past, present, and future.

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