Kanaga mask (Front view)
Kanaga dancer's attributesVideoMaps

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Item : Kanaga mask, Picture : Front view (approx. 15 Kbytes)

The kanaga mask can be interpreted various ways by the initiates, the dancers and the witnesses. For the ones, 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. Then inert and secular, the mask 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.

This kind of mask is allotted to the male initiation society awa, closely related to ancestors' cult and dama ceremonies. For Dogon, these ceremonies give access to the universal vital force and to the reincarnation of the departed. The symbolic system of interpretation by the initiate reveals the creator, indicated by the dancer's gesture in the sky and the ground.
18th / 19th century.

Object #2327

Origin :


Type :

Masks and headdresses

Ethnic group :


Material :

Very age-old patina from use, original pigments, indigenous repairs

Size :

W = 18.3 inches; H = 39.3 inches

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