Kanaga mask (Front view)
Tireli villageKanaga dancer's attributesMaps

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Item : Kanaga mask, Picture : Front view (approx. 16 Kbytes)


The kanaga mask can be interpreted various ways by the initiates, the dancers and the witnesses. For the ones, the uninitiated, it represents the bird kommolo tebu, for others the crocodile, the cow, the antelope, or the blacksmith-sculptor himself. All depends on the interpretation of the dancer's attributes (headdress, purse, cane, costume …) and in the way in which the mask « dances ». The deeper meaning of the kanaga mask apparently pertains both to God, the crossbars being his arms and legs, and to the arrangement of the universe, with the upper crossbar representing the sky and the lower one the earth.

This kind of mask is allotted to the male initiatory society awa, closely related to ancestors' cult and dama ceremonies. At the time of these ceremonies, the mask, then inert and secular, became the attribute of a dressed up dancer which gave it life and word. Because this is only through the movement, and through the dancer more particularly, that the mask finds its effectiveness. For Dogon, these ceremonies give access to the universal vital force and to the reincarnation of the deceased. The symbolic system of interpretation by the initiate reveals the creator, indicated by the dancer's gesture in the sky and the ground.
Unlike others kanaga masks, the lower part of this one is sculpted in a round-shaped way.
19th century or earlier.

Object #2318

Origin :

Mali (Tireli area, Bandiagara cliffs)

Type :

Masks and headdresses

Ethnic group :

Dogon

Material :

Wood, natural pigments, resin and vegetal fibers, fine aged patina

Size :

W = 24.4 inches; H = 38.5 inches

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