The Dogon are one the most interesting ethnic group of Mali. They live on
the cliffs of Bandiagara, a zone of difficult access. It has reduced the
influence of Islam, and it has helped to preserve intact the Dogon culture.
The cliffs of Bandiagara were firstly inhabited by the Pygmy, that found
in the numerous caves of the walls, the perfect environement to defend
themselves against the attacks of their enemies. Then the Tellem took the
place, and used the houses that the Pygmy had made into the caves, to store
the grain. Dogon peoples arrived to the cliffs of Bandiagara running away
from the Mossi kingdom of Yatenga in the XIV century, and used the caves
The Dogon inherited from the Tellem "art" rectilineal designs. All the objects
used in rituals were made by blacksmiths, that worked with wood the same
way he did with metal. The result is a lineal composition, in which harmony
is more important than details.
Kanaga mask (sold)
||90 cm high reproduction of a kanaga mask, made by a Dogon artisan.
The face has a triangular structure. The cross-of-Lorraine superstructure
type represents actually the outstretched wings of a mythical bird, the komondo,
and reports to the creation myth. The triangular shape of the face is the
upper jaw of the bird, and the conical form below it is the tongue. According
to certain myths, the superstructure is the God's hand. The two small figures
on the top represent the first human couple to which the Dogon traced their
origin. The higher part of the cross symbolizes the supernatural world, and
the lower part symbolizes the society world. The union between both worlds
is the line that joins the higher and the lower part of the cross. In ritual
ceremonies, the carrier of the mask dances, pointing out the cross towards
the ground, to connect earth and heaven. In funeral ceremonies, members of
the Awa society wore these masks when dancing on the roof of dead's house
in order to lead his soul (nyama) to its resting place and, at the same time,
to defend the survivors from the harm a wandering soul might inflict upon
them. After the ceremony, they considered the deceased man as an ancestor
(from Ladislas Segy's "Masks of West Africa" ).
The masks are also worn to protect hunters against the revenge of the animal
he has killed.