Dogon door lock (Front view)

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Item : Dogon door lock, Picture : Front view (approx. 23 Kbytes)

This rare and exceptional Dogon door lock depicts a fish, the tail carved atop and the head pointed at the bottom of the lock. To our knowledge, this iconography is unique. The engraved patterns symbolize the scales of the animal. The separated tail, placed atop by the sculptor, is symbolic of the twins' nommo ancestors, and more generally of the duality. In the Dogon myth of the creation of the universe, the fish is also the first living being created by amma : the nommo anagonno.

As the majority of the Dogon figures, door locks were traditionally sculpted by the blacksmiths. Blacksmiths belong to a caste of highest rank, they are at the same time Masters of the fire (work of metal, and knowledge of melting points), and carve the major part of wooden objects. 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. Door locks were a prized gift for young brides, and passed down from generation to generation. Apart from its extreme rarity, its simple and pure architectonics, this door lock can be considered as a masterpiece of Dogon art.
Probably second part of the 19th century.

Object #4345

Origin :

Mali (Ireli area)

Type :

Door locks

Ethnic group :


Material :

Wood, very fine crusty and glossy aged patina

Size :

H = 14.7 inches

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