Dogon door lock (Front view)
DetailIn situ crocodile lockMechanismMaps

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Item : Dogon door lock, Picture : Front view (approx. 13 Kbytes)

This lock contains the structural elements of both lizards (geo) and crocodiles (ayo). These reptiles are frequently represented in locks. The lizard symbolizes the prepuce of a circumcised boy's penis. The Dogon believe that the female element of a boy's spiritual being resides in his prepuce. On removal at the time of circumcision, it is transformed into a reddish-colored lizard that the Dogon call the Sun Lizard. The crocodile represents the animal that once belonged to the ancestor binu serou, allegoric figure of the water element. Locks depicting crocodiles are frequently used by the totemic priests of the binu cult for sealing their granaries or sanctuaries.

Wooden door locks were used on the doors of dwellings, cookhouses, sanctuaries, and on granary shutters. Each lock is given a name in accordance with its message, person, myth, or any anecdote referred to. The crocodile and the lizard are considered as totemic animals by the Dogon. In the past, the representation of « prohibited » or dangerous animals was regarded as the sign of a great protective force. These animals could not be killed, eaten, nor even touched. They are represented on shutters, as on attic posts, doors, or door locks (ta koguru). Both aquatic and terrestrial animals related to the fertility of growing, they protect by their symbolic power.
End of the 19th century.

Object #4261

Origin :

Mali (Bandiagara plateau, village of Keti)

Type :

Door locks

Ethnic group :


Material :

Dense wood, brownish patina from use

Size :

H = 24.6 inches

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