This very rare door lock depicts a crocodile (bama). The
vertical part forms the body of the animal. It symbolizes the
protective spirit of the family (the guardian spirit) which protects
from robbers. In the past, the representation of
« prohibited » or dangerous animals, like the crocodile,
was regarded as the sign of a great protective force. These animals
could not be killed, eaten, nor even touched.
Like the majority of the Bamana figures, door locks (called
konbalabala) were traditionally sculpted by the blacksmiths.
Blacksmiths belong to a caste of highest rank, they are at the same
time Masters of 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
18th / 19th century or earlier.
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