Dan Artists

The Sculptors Tame, Si, Tompieme and Sõn. Their Personalities and Work

Eberhard Fischer

Dan Artists

Eberhard Fischer

Distributed for Scheidegger and Spiess

144 pages | 22 color plates, 129 halftones, 1 DVD | 9 x 12 | © 2014
Cloth w/ DVD $49.00 ISBN: 9783858817594 Published May 2015
In 1960, renowned art historian and cultural anthropologist Eberhard Fischer traveled to West Africa to film the workings of a group of Dan tribesmen from Liberia as they carved the wooden masks that constitute one of the Dan’s most important forms of art. Signifiers of spiritual forces, the masks—adorned with raffia, fur, and feathers—play an important role in the festive performances that structure Dan village life. But beyond the masks, Fischer grew increasingly fascinated with the artists who created them, and he began collecting their stories in addition to documenting in detail the creation of their work.
The result is four fascinating biographies, available here for the first time in English. Anthropologists and collectors of African art have long been fascinated with Dan masks but never before have the artists themselves been so thoroughly recognized—an especially important contribution to our understanding of this form of West African art since the masks must often be carved in secret. Originally published in 1963, Dan Artists brings together Fischer’s original writings, photographs, and film with many additional images and a new epilogue by Fischer in which he reflects on his journey and research.


                Dan artistry


Blacksmith and mask carver in Nyor Diaple

                Tame’s workshop and carving method

                Tame sculpts a geangle-mask

                Tame sculpts a ngedi-mask [of the bagle-genre]

                The work of the carver Tame

                                The dean-mask from Tame’s mastery period

                                The dean-mask from an aged Tame


Hunter and carver in Nyol Diaple

                Si’s workplace

                Si carves a wakemia-ceremonial spoon

                Si carves a dean-mask


A young carver in Nyol Diaple

                Tompieme’s workplace

                Tompieme carves a bagle-mask

                Tompieme’ work

                                The old mask of Tompieme’s family

                                The dean-mask of Tompieme


Smith and Carver in Do Nuopie 

                Sõn’s workplace

                Sõn carves a dean-mask

                The work of the carver Sõn



Epilog: The making of Dan Artists

Publications on Dan art and culture by Hans Himmelheber and Eberhard Fischer

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