|Title||Old Bamileke Prestige Hat Fingerlings Cameroon African Art|
|Type of Object||Door|
|Country of Origin||Mali|
|Approximate Age||20th century|
|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.|
The Dogon people are an ethnic group who live in the central plateau region of Mali in West Africa. Dogon art is known for its distinctive style and is often characterized by intricate geometric patterns, stylized human and animal figures, and bold colors.
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.
Dogon doors are considered to be both functional and decorative objects. In addition to serving as entrances, they are also seen as symbols of status and wealth. The carvings on the doors are often believed to have spiritual significance and are thought to provide protection and ward off evil spirits.
Overall, Dogon art, including their doors, is an important part of the culture and history of the Dogon people and has been celebrated for its unique style and symbolism.
Francine Ndiaye, L'ART DU PAYS DOGON, Musee de l'Homme, Paris
Kate Ezra, ART OF THE DOGON, The Metropolitan Museum of Art