Dogon mask

History
and meaning

Mali
– West Africa

Kananga
& Walu mask
Dogon
masks catalog

Dogon
door catalog

Dogon ancient
culture
Mali fact sheet
Map
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(Kananga)
Kanaga Mask- Dogon tribe.

dogonmask_SLF_1163.jpg (56486 bytes) Kananga masks form geometric patterns.
These masks represent the first human beings and are normally made by
carvers of the Awa society. The masks are worn during the Dama dancing
ceremonies The Dogon believe that the Dama dance creates a bridge into
the supernatural world. Without the Dama dance, the dead cannot cross
over into peace.

Typical
characteristic of this mask is the dual cross with short bars extending
up across the top piece and down on the bottom piece. The top portion of the
vertical bar sometimes bear an animal, human or abstract figure. The masks are normally
painted white and black.
Common features are the rectangular face, thin long nose and large
eyeholes.

Every
five years, Dama memorial ceremonies are held to accompany the dead into
the ancestral realm and restore order to the universe.
During
the Dama celebration, Youdiou villagers circle around stilt dancers. The
dance and costumes imitate a long-legged water bird. The
dancers execute difficult steps while teetering high above the crowd. Through
such rituals, the Dogon believe that the benevolent force of the
ancestor is transmitted to them.

Their self-defense comes from their
social solidarity, which is based on a complex combination of philosophic
and religious dogmas, the fundamental law being the worship of
ancestors. Ritual masks and corpses are used for ceremonies and are kept
in caves. The Dogons are both Muslims and Animists.

Walu Mask

This
type of mask is also geometric in shape with a rectangular face, long
straight nose triangular shaped eyeholes, and round pouted mouth and
long horns that appears to look like ears. The mask depicts a mythical
antelope known as Walu. According to legend God Amma assigned Walu, to
protect the sun from Yurugu (Fox).


The
Dogon uses the Walu masks during ceremonies to commemorate the origin of
death. According to their myths, the Dogon’s worship ancestors and
communicate through the spirits. They also make agricultural sacrifices
during these rituals. All major Dogon scared sites are believed to be a
Dogon myth of the creation of the world, in particular to a deity named
Nommo. Binu shrines house spirits of mythic ancestors who lived in the
legendary era before the appearance of death among mankind. Binu spirits
often make themselves known to their descendants in the form of an
animal that interceded on behalf of the clan during its founding or
migration, thus becoming the clan’s totem. Dogon believe that death came
into the world as a result of primeval man’s transgressions against the
divine order.


The
Dogon an ethnic group are mainly located in the administrative districts
of Bandiagara and Douentza in Mali ,
West Africa.
There are
approximately 700 Dogon villages, with an average of 400 inhabitants.
During the hot season, the Dogon
sleep on the roofs of their earthen homes.

The tribe’s folk call
themselves ‘Dogon’ or ‘Dogom’, but in the older literature they are most
often called ‘Habe’, a Fulbe meaning ‘stranger’. Millet Harvest – Dogon women
pound millet in the village of Kani Kombal. Millet is of vital
importance to the Dogon. They sow millet in June and July, after the
rains begin. The millet is harvested in October.

The precise origins of the
Dogon people, like those of many other ancient cultures, are not yet
determined. Their civilization emerged, in much the same way as ancient
Egypt. Around 1490 AD the Dogon people migrated to the Bandiagara cliffs
of central Mali.

The religious beliefs of the
Dogon are enormously complex and knowledge varies greatly within Dogon
society. The religion is defined primarily through the worship of
ancestors and spirits.

There are three principal
cults among the Dogon; the Awa, Lebe and Binu.

  1. The Awa is a cult of the
    dead, whose purpose is to reorder the spiritual forces disturbed by
    the death of Nommo, a mythological ancestor of great importance to
    the Dogon.

    Members of the Awa cult dance
    with ornate carved and painted masks during both funeral and death
    anniversary ceremonies. There are 78 different types of ritual masks
    among the Dogon and their iconographic messages go beyond the
    aesthetic, into the realm of religion and philosophy.
    The primary purpose of Awa
    dance ceremonies is to lead souls of the deceased to their final
    resting place in the family altars and to consecrate their passage to
    the ranks of the ancestors.
  2. The cult of Lebe, the Earth
    God, is primarily concerned with the agricultural cycle and its chief
    priest is called a Hogon. Each Dogon village have a Lebe shrine with
    an altar that have bits of earth incorporated into them to encourage
    the continued fertility of the land. According to Dogon beliefs, the
    god Lebe visits the Hogons every night in the form of a serpent and
    licks their skins in order to purify them and infuse them with life
    force. The hogons are responsible for guarding the purity of the soil
    and therefore officiate at many agricultural ceremonies.
  3. The cult of Binu is a totemic practice and it has
    complex associations with the Dogon’s sacred places namely; spirit
    communication ancestor worship, and agricultural sacrifices. Binu
    shrines house spirits of ancestors who lived before the appearance of
    death among mankind. Binu spirits often emerged to descendants in the
    form of an animal that interceded on behalf of the clan during its
    founding or migration, the vision will be become the clan’s totem. The
    priests of each Binu maintain the sanctuaries whose facades are often
    painted with graphic signs and mystic symbols. Sacrifices of blood and
    millet porridge are made at the Binu shrines at sowing time and
    whenever the intercession of the immortal ancestor is desired.

Also Read:

Fang    
Beta     Guro   
Yoruba    
Punu    Tikar   
Bamileke    Chokwe   
Dan    Igbo   
Baule    Kwele   
Goli   
Teke   
Bamoun   
Baga    Songye   
Toma   
Dogon   Kuba   
Ashanti


 



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