Francois Beaurain

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Aluminium masks

Liberia, 2018

At a time when some European governments promise to return African artifacts, thousands of masks and fetiches are still exported without any control. I always dreamed of purchasing some masks but never did it because it's difficult to know exactly the origin of the masks and did not want to take part in the lootage.

This year I decided to experiment to copy some masks an antiquarian was kind enough to lend me (only one antiquarian agreed to do so). I brought the mask to an aluminium smelter I have been knowing for years and asked him to make a copy. It was not an easy job to produce the masks using the sandcasting technique but the smelter managed to do so, turning all aluminium cans into brand new masks.

All-metal face masks are very rare among the peoples of the Upper Guinea Coast rain forest, only a few exemplaries in brass and one in lead can be found. Within the Dan people, metal masks were highly ranked among the Poro mask hierarchy and were used only in special occasions like expansion rituals.

 

 

Fresh aluminium copy of a Dan mask

mask dan, liberia, west africa

 

Original Toma mask (left) and its copy (right)

mask, liberia, dan, liberia

 

Mask Dan - aluminium and charcoal, 30cm

dan, ask, aliuminium, smelter

 

 

Mask Dan - aluminium and charcoal, 30cm

 

Mask Toma- aluminium, 30cm