Africa Direct
Africa Direct

Dogon Door Mali Small Wood African Art

AvailabilityIn stock
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Brand Unbranded
Type of Object Door
Country of Origin Mali
People Dogon
Materials Wood, metal, pigment
Approximate Age 20th century
Height (in) 22
Width (in) 16
Depth (in) 3
Overall Condition Good. Most of our pieces have spent decades on at least two continents, and have been treasured by several owners.   Small splits, scrapes and cracks are a normal part of their patina attesting to their age and extensive use.  We examine each piece carefully when we receive it and report any damage we find in our listings.  Please look carefully at the pictures which may also reveal condition and damage.
Damage/Repair Cracks, chips and a well worn patina

Additional Information: This door is composed of two panels of wood that were joined together by native made staples. Carved doors are rare as Islam has come into the Dogon area displacing traditional beliefs and symbolism.

The Dogon of present day Mali live along the Bandiagara escarpment a range of cliffs approximately 120 miles long and in places up to one thousand feet high. Living in small villages on the plain at the foot of the escarpment the Dogon farm in an environment that is marginal and demanding. As subsistence farmers they depend upon the food they produce to live storing it in granaries made of mud with thatched roofs and carved doors providing access to the foodstuffs held in the granary.

Numerous granaries attest not only to the need to store food but equally reflect family structures as each wife will have her own granary where personal objects as well as family shrines known as Binu are kept.Openings into the granaries and shrines were sealed by carved doors or panels. Figures of humans, animals or of symbolic motifs were carved in relief onto the surface of the door. The doors had pointed corners that served as hinges and some had a sculpted wooden lock to keep the door closed.

The Dogon people of Mali are among the oldest surviving African cultures despite the fact that throughout their existence more powerful neighbors have threatened them. For protection, until about 300 years ago the Dogon built their villages near or in the famous Bandiagara cliffs. They have thus been nicknamed the Hill, Cliff and Mountain people. Dogon art manifests in masks, architectural objects, statues and vessels. The Dogon realize that they are not the first inhabitants of the land that they now occupy. Their myths, legends, traditions and art retain the memories of their predecessors. The Dogon people of Mali are known the world over for their creation of Dogon Doors. The doors have various uses in their society; first as the physical closure to their granaries. Secondly they are created and exchanged as gifts for birthdays, marriages, tokens of luck and rites of passage bequests. Thirdly, when used as a part of the architecture, as a door or shutter, in a private abode, through the use of symbols they are used to describe the occupation of the person or that persons persona or status in the village. Lastly it served as a sign to taxpayers, letting them know which form of payment was accepted in the adjoining building. The symbolic styling of the doors can vary. Pairs of breasts, representing femininity and fertility are usually found. Village dancers wearing the famed rabbit eared Walu mask or the tall Kanaga headdress typically underline the bottom of the door. The Kanaga masks are worn by members of the Awa Society who dance on the roof of the deceased in order to lead the soul (nyama) to its resting place as well as defending the survivors from the harm a wandering soul might inflict upon them. A herringbone pattern can often be found running down the sides of the door representing the vibration of water and light. The door latch is surmounted by one or two larger figures who are members of the famed founding primordial couple. Other themes include but are not limited to village scenes, warriors on horseback, animal figures, gecko lizards which represent luck, large crocodiles which denote power and rows and rows of raised Dogon ancestor figures that all resemble each other.

Recommended Reading:

Francine Ndiaye, L'ART DU PAYS DOGON, Musee de l'Homme, Paris

Kate Ezra, ART OF THE DOGON, The Metropolitan Museum of Art