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Architectural components • Dogon • Mali
 

Dogon granary shutter

This very old small shutter was placed midway up the granary wall. It provided access, throughout the year following harvests, to the goods stored inside (millet, sorghum, rice, corn). The Dogon granaries are narrow, four-sided or round, with a structure made of wood and covered with cob, and generally a thatch roof or a terrace roof (see picture).

The chevrons symbolize the lebe snake, as well as the rain. The central motif represents the origin of the universe, and the four primordial nommo : amma serou, lebe serou, binu serou and diogou serou. It also symbolizes the amma celestial Ark which represents the creation of the Earth, as well as the four elements (ground, air, water and fire).
18th / 19th century.


Origin : Mali (Ende area, Bandiagara cliffs)
Type : Architectural components
Ethnic group : Dogon
Material : Wood with a grey patina, covered in places with a crusty material

2215

Dogon granary shutter

Shutters were placed midway up the granary wall, and provided access to the goods stored inside. The Dogon granaries are narrow, four-sided or round, with a structure made of wood and covered with cob, and generally a thatch roof.

This rare granary shutter presents in its center another small shutter. The two locks are surmounted by birds. The central shutter gave access to another lock dissimulated back of the shutter (and thus inside the granary), and which it opened the principal shutter. This mechanism is very different from the system commonly used on granaries (see pictures).

Shutters and door locks primarily protect the contents of the granaries by their symbolic presence ; it is thus very rare to find this double security system.
19th century or earlier.


Origin : Mali (Dourou area, Bandiagara cliffs)
Type : Architectural components
Ethnic group : Dogon
Material : Wood, iron, and age-old used patina

2363

Dogon granary shutter

This granary shutter is carved of a crocodile (ayo), animal symbolizing at the same time the fertilizing water of grounds and defending against robbers. The crocodile represents the animal that once belonged to the ancestor binu serou (the water element). This shutter was used by the totemic priest of the binu cult for sealing his granary. The close association of such shutter with vital food supplies harvested from binu fields means that it also symbolizes binu serou himself. The binu cult links the living to those early ancestors who are immortal. Shutters primarily protect the contents of the granaries by their symbolic presence. The crocodile (or caiman) is one of totemic animals of the Dogon. One as well finds it represented on shutters, as on attic posts, doors, or door locks.

Sculpted by the blacksmith of the village for the hogon (spiritual chief) and notables, shutters are one of the major elements of Dogon art. Extremely furrowed surface is the sign of a very great antiquity (probably between 16th and the 18th century). This granary shutter is coming from the deserted Tellem village of Banani, cave dwellers settlement in the cliffs. These caves and deserted old granaries are considered as sacred places by the Dogon themselves (see attached pictures).


Origin : Mali (Banani village area, Bandiagara cliffs)
Type : Architectural components
Ethnic group : Dogon
Material : Densely brownish wood, furrowed patina

2374

Dogon granary shutter

This very old shutter was placed midway up the granary wall, and provided access to the goods stored inside. The Dogon granaries are narrow, four-sided or round, with a structure made of wood and covered with cob, and generally a thatch roof (see picture).

The chevrons symbolize the lebe snake, as well as the fertilizing rain. The central figures represent tortoises in very abstract way. The tortoise is one of the totemic animals of Dogon. One as well finds it represented on shutters, as on attic posts, doors, or door locks (ta koguru). Aquatic animal related to the fertility of growing, it protects by its symbolic strength the granary against robbers, and generally wards off fate.
Sculpted by the blacksmith of the village for the hogon (spiritual chief) and notables, shutters are one of the major elements of Dogon art. Extremely furrowed surface is the sign of a great antiquity.


Origin : Mali (Bandiagara cliffs area)
Type : Architectural components
Ethnic group : Dogon
Material : Brownish wood, furrowed patina

2552

Dogon granary shutter

This shutter was placed midway up the granary wall, and provided access, throughout the year following harvests, to the goods stored inside (millet, sorghum, rice, corn, fonio). The Dogon granaries are narrow, four-sided or round, with a structure made of wood and covered with cob, and generally a thatch roof or a terrace roof (see pictures).
The very fine door lock is surmounted by an ostrich (ogotanala) or a stork. Associated to this animal, the small breasts, right upside the lock, are symbolizing the cultivation fertility. The patterns on the right side are representing land under cultivation in very abstract way. Shutters primarily protect the contents of the granaries by their symbolic presence. Sculpted by the blacksmith of the village for the hogon (spiritual chief) and notables, shutters are one of the major elements of Dogon art.


Origin : Mali (Ireli, Bandiagara cliffs area)
Type : Architectural components
Ethnic group : Dogon
Material : Brownish patinated wood

2922

Dogon granary shutter

This granary shutter, with a great variety of iconographic symbols, is carved with four rows of chevrons symbolizing both the fertilizing water of growing and the nommo ancestors as they fell to the earth in the form of rain. Two rows are engraved with alternating X and circles patterns. What is unusual about these engravings is not only their diversity, but also their relationships to one another, as in a regular sequence. Circles would be both the symbol of the original seed () and of the amma placenta. Their association with the chevrons speaks of the rainy season and agricultural fertility. The sequential would represent the vibration of the original matter in the placenta, which gave birth to the first human being, the nommo anagonno (a fish). On the right side of the shutter, six nommo figures are represented, four females and two males.
The lock depicts the water tortoise (kiru), symbolic of the placenta of the nommo. Locks with this unique figure are often affixed to the granaries holding the harvest of a hogon's fields. The hogon is the spiritual leader of the village, and play a key role in mediating disputes, dispensing justice, counteracting sorcery, and maintaining the delicate relationship between man and a pantheon of ancestral and nature spirits.
Shutters primarily protect the contents of the granaries by their symbolic presence. Sculpted by the blacksmith of the village for the hogon (spiritual chief) and notables, shutters are one of the major elements of Dogon art.
18th / 19th century.


Origin : Mali (Yougo Dogorou, Bandiagara cliffs)
Type : Architectural components
Ethnic group : Dogon
Material : Dense brownish wood, crusty aged patina

4280

Dogon granary shutter

This granary shutter is carved of two crocodiles (ayo). These animals symbolized at the same time the fertilizing water of grounds and defended against robbers. The crocodile represents the animal that once belonged to the ancestor binu serou (the water element). This shutter was used by the totemic priest of the binu cult for sealing his granary. The close association of such shutter with vital food supplies harvested from binu fields means that it also symbolizes binu serou himself. The binu cult links the living to those early ancestors who are immortal.

This shutter was placed midway up the granary wall. It provided access, throughout the year following harvests, to the goods stored inside (millet, sorghum, rice, corn). The Dogon granaries are narrow, four-sided or round, with a structure made of wood and covered with cob, and generally a thatch roof or a terrace roof (see pictures). Shutters primarily protect the contents of the granaries by their symbolic presence. The crocodile (or caiman) is one of totemic animals of the Dogon. One as well finds it represented on shutters, as on attic posts, doors, or door locks. Sculpted by the blacksmith of the village for the hogon (spiritual chief) and notables, shutters are one of the major elements of Dogon art. Furrowed surface is the sign of a very great antiquity (probably between 16th and the 18th century).


Origin : Mali (Banani village, Bandiagara cliffs)
Type : Architectural components
Ethnic group : Dogon
Material : Densely brownish wood, furrowed and crusty patina

4282

Dogon house door

This very beautiful and antique Dogon door is carved in relief with four projecting breasts, and suggests the vital importance of women in Dogon society (fertility symbol). Consisting of two wooden panels of unequal width joined at the side, this door swing open on projecting pivots at the top and bottom that are set into depressions on the sill and lintel.
19th century or earlier.


Origin : Mali (Bandiagara cliffs)
Type : Architectural components
Ethnic group : Dogon
Material : Wood, exquisite deep dark patina from use

5297

Dogon sanctuary door

This very old Dogon sanctuary door is carved with five rows of nommo figures. Those rows symbolize a strong magic and spiritual force, usually reserved for the binu sanctuary (see picture). This force is then, according to beliefs' animists of Dogon, imparted to the door. In the Dogon myth of the creation of the Earth, the amma god bore a being figure known as nommo (the nommo anagonno, symbolized by a fish). This nommo gave birth to four couples of nommo, considered as the eight ancestors of the mankind and the four elements.

The construction of this sanctuary door, the austere and traditional style, as well as a dense and very eroded wood, make this exceptional piece, impressed of nobleness, one of the greatest Dogon sculptures.
18th / 19th century.


Origin : Mali
Type : Architectural components
Ethnic group : Dogon
Material : Densely very eroded wood

2130

Dogon Toguna post

The toguna (sheltered meeting place) is the site where the men elders meet to discuss maters of the village ; this is also a place where the word of experienced men makes law. The toguna consists of an open structure with vertical elements (in most cases, and ideally, eight posts) that support a thatched roof. In the cliffs area, the posts may be mud brick (see attached pictures). The roof is low so that the men inside must remain seated in discussion. The thatch is ideally composed of eight tiers. The tiers refer, as do the toguna posts, to the eight ancestral nommo (Dogon cosmogony).
Toguna posts, like much with other Dogon objects, are decorated with a dege (protective spirit with much significance). It is the domain of men, but its posts often exhibit female or sexual imagery. Here a pair of breasts relief-carved, symbol of fertility and reaffirming women's role as a pillar of society.

Origin : Purchased from Claude Lebas, Paris, 1993


Origin : Mali (Seno plain area)
Type : Architectural components
Ethnic group : Dogon
Material : Natural eroded wood

2364

Dogon Toguna post

The toguna (sheltered meeting place) is the site where the men elders meet to discuss maters of the village ; this is also a place where the word of experienced men makes law. The toguna consists of an open structure with vertical elements (in most cases, and ideally, eight posts) that support a thatched roof. In the cliffs area, the posts may be mud brick (see picture). The roof is low so that the men inside must remain seated in discussion. The thatch is ideally composed of eight tiers. The tiers refer, as do the toguna posts, to the eight ancestral nommo.
Toguna posts, like much with other Dogon objects, are decorated with a dege (a protective spirit). It is the domain of men, but its posts often exhibit female or sexual imagery. Here a highly stylized female relief-carved, symbol of fertility and reaffirming women's role as a pillar of society.


Origin : Mali (Somanagoro area, Seno plain)
Type : Architectural components
Ethnic group : Dogon
Material : Aged patinated wood

2968


Architectural components • Tellem • Mali
 

Tellem granary shutter

This small granary shutter is carved of a crocodile (ayo) or a tortoise (kiru), and of four nommo figures on its lower part. The crocodile represents the animal that once belonged to the ancestor binu serou (the water element). The tortoise is symbolic of the placenta of the nommo. Chevrons on the upper part symbolize both the fertilizing water of growing and the nommo ancestors as they fell to the earth in the form of rain. This row would represent also the vibrations of the original matter in the amma placenta, which gave birth to the first human being, the nommo anagonno (a fish). The four nommo ancestors, androgynous figures, would be the descendants of the nommo anagonno (three of them were fishes, the fourth one, ogo, became the Pale Fox).
This shutter was affixed on a Tellem granary, in the deserted old village of Teli (see attached pictures). Placed midway up the small granary wall, it provided access to the goods stored inside. The Tellem granaries are four-sided or round, with a structure made of wood and covered with cob. Shutters primarily protect the contents of the granaries by their symbolic presence.
14th / 15th century.


Origin : Mali (Teli village, Bandiagara cliffs)
Type : Architectural components
Ethnic group : Tellem / Dogon
Material : Densely brownish wood, furrowed patina

4269


Door locks • Bamana (Bambara) • Mali
 

Bamana door lock

This important door lock, depicting a female figure, was probably attached to the door of the enclosed area of the men's house (ty so). The presence on the door of a lock representing a woman was believed to prevent the man from being unfaithful to his wives. It is unusual that the breasts, the navel and the legs appear. The face is surmounted by a headdress reminiscent of the Bamana masks of the n'tomo initiation society.

Like the majority of the Bamana figures, door locks (called konbalabala) were traditionally sculpted by the blacksmiths who belong to a caste of the highest rank. They are at the same time masters of fire (working with metal and understand melting points) and of wood, who carve the majority of wooden objects used by their people. Each lock is given a name in accordance with its message, person, myth, or any anecdotal reference (here the n'tomo secret society).
19th century or earlier.


Origin : Mali (Kolokani area)
Type : Door locks
Ethnic group : Bamana (Bambara)
Material : Wood, with a honey-colored patina derived from significant use

2093

Bamana door lock

This door lock depicts a male figure. The face and the crested traditional coiffure (bambada) are illustrated in a very abstract way (see attached picture). The head is represented by a striking triangular form with a concave face and a prominent ridge forming the bridge of the nose. The body is incised with various geometrical patterns symbolizing the fertility. The goitre figuration symbolizes the word. 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.

Probably middle of the 19th century.


Origin : Mali (Kolokani area)
Type : Door locks
Ethnic group : Bamana (Bambara)
Material : Wood, iron, fine deep black aged patina

2137

Bamana door lock

This door lock depicts a female figure and a butterfly (mpérémpéréni). According the legend, God (pemba) originally created the butterfly as both a large and an important creature. Overcome by pride and vanity, the butterfly offended pemba, who in turn reduced it to a small and fragile creature. The butterfly represents also the deity mouso koroni (who tried to be God's equal) and her offenses against the creator God.
The body is incised with geometrical patterns. The head is surmounted by two protuberances symbolizing the butterfly's wings. The recessed and inverted triangular shape at the base of the vertical part represents the head of the python (mignan), a symbol of pemba.

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.

19th century or earlier.


Origin : Mali
Type : Door locks
Ethnic group : Bamana (Bambara)
Material : Wood and iron, old brown patina from use

2138

Bamana door lock

This door lock depicts a female figure with long ears. These are symbolizing the guardian spirit komo, who hears every sound, and the abstract crocodile jaws arising from the head. This lock was traditionally fixed on the door of the married women and it was supposed to protect woman and children from the sorcerers. The goitre figuration symbolizes the word, and the komo secret society. Double-lined chevrons, at the base of the vertical part, are representing the cosmic travel of the deities faro (the water) and mouso koroni (the earth, she initiated human beings, animals, and vegetables).

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.

19th century or earlier.


Origin : Mali (Kolokani area)
Type : Door locks
Ethnic group : Bamana (Bambara)
Material : Wood, very beautiful aged patina

2145

Bamana door lock

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 to generation.
18th / 19th century or earlier.


Origin : Mali (Yanfoilla area)
Type : Door locks
Ethnic group : Bamana (Bambara)
Material : Wood, deep brown patina

2165

Bamana door lock

This door lock (konbalabala) is decorated with incised patterns symbolizing the fields and the center of the universe. The higher part represents the head of a crocodile or a koro lizard surmounted by a very rare solar symbol. The circles incised represent both the rain and water, and mouso koroni tears (goddess of the Earth).
19th century or earlier.


Origin : Mali (Sikasso area)
Type : Door locks
Ethnic group : Bamana (Bambara)
Material : Wood, age-old use patina

2170

Bamana door lock

This door lock, surmounted by a pair of horns (or ears), represents a female character in a very stylized way. The long ears are symbolizing the guardian spirit komo, who hears every sound.
19th century or earlier.


Origin : Mali
Type : Door locks
Ethnic group : Bamana (Bambara)
Material : Wood, very age-old use patina

2216

Bamana door lock

This very old door lock represents in an abstract form the tail of the black scorpion (dyonkomi), sacred animal for the Bamana. In the past, the representation of « prohibited » animals, like the scorpion, was regarded as the sign of a great protective force.

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.

18th / 19th century.


Origin : Mali
Type : Door locks
Ethnic group : Bamana (Bambara)
Material : Wood with a very old crusty patina and granitic surface with gray tonality, metal

2279

Bamana door lock

Like the majority of the Bamana 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 fire (work of metal, and knowledge of melting points), and carve the major part of wooden objects.

This door lock represents a protective spirit of the family (guardian spirit), probably a lizard or a crocodile (called bama). In the past, the representation of « prohibited » animals was regarded as the sign of a great protective force. These animals could not be killed, eaten, nor even touched.
18th / 19th century.


Origin : Mali (Beledougou area)
Type : Door locks
Ethnic group : Bamana (Bambara)
Material : Wood, very beautiful old bright brownish-red patina from use

2342

Bamana door lock

This door lock depicts a female figure with long-eared forms symbolizing the protective spirit komo who hears every sound. This lock, angular-faced, with an apparent navel and short legs, was fixed on the door of the enclosed area of the men's house (ty so). The presence on the door of a lock representing a woman was believed to prevent the man from being unfaithful to his wives.
19th century or earlier.


Origin : Mali
Type : Door locks
Ethnic group : Bamana (Bambara)
Material : Wood with brownish and black crusty patina

2349

Bamana door lock

This important door lock depicts a male figure. The face and the crested coiffure (bambada) are illustrated in a very abstract way. The head is represented by a striking triangular form with a concave face and a prominent ridge forming the bridge of the nose. The body is incised with various geometrical patterns symbolizing the fertility, and the breast appears (symbol of the protective spirit). The goitre figuration symbolizes the word. 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.
Its fine aged patina, its important size, its rigorous stylistic construction, conveys a remarkable audacity in the sculptor's creativity and a major work outstanding in his category.
18th / 19th century.


Origin : Mali (Bougouni area)
Type : Door locks
Ethnic group : Bamana (Bambara)
Material : Wood, very fine aged patina

2958

Bamana door lock

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. The crocodile is also the totemic animal of the kore secret society, the guardian of faro's waters, and symbolizes fertility, wealth and good fortune. This mythical crocodile was the first to stow away the ark of creation in faro's pond, and thus is in close relationship with this deity. Like the majority of the Bamana figures, door locks were traditionally sculpted by 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.
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.
19th century or earlier.


Origin : Mali (Bougouni area)
Type : Door locks
Ethnic group : Bamana (Bambara)
Material : Wood, exceptional and aged patina, glossy in places

2959

Bamana door lock

This very rare door lock depicts a water lizard (kana). The vertical part forms the body of the animal. It symbolizes the protective spirit of the family (the guardian spirit, gné) which protects from robbers. Like the majority of the Bamana figures, door locks were traditionally sculpted by 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.
In the past, the representation of « prohibited » animals, like the lizard, was regarded as the sign of a great protective force. These animals could not be killed, eaten, nor even touched.
Wooden door locks were used on the doors of dwellings, cookhouses, and sanctuaries. 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.
Probably 19th century.


Origin : Mali
Type : Door locks
Ethnic group : Bamana (Bambara)
Material : Wood, exceptional and aged patina

2973

Bamana door lock

This exceptional door lock is surmounted by a six-faced head. To our knowledge, this kind of representation is unique. The body is incised with various geometrical patterns symbolizing the fertility, and the breast appears. The goitre figuration symbolizes the word.
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.
Its fine aged patina, its rigorous stylistic construction, conveys a remarkable audacity in the sculptor's creativity and a major work outstanding in his category.
19th century.

Origin : Pierre Robin, Paris, 1993


Origin : Mali (Bougouni area)
Type : Door locks
Ethnic group : Bamana (Bambara)
Material : Wood, very fine aged patina

2989

Bamana door lock

This very rare door lock, with an exceptional patinated wood, depicts a crocodile (bama) or the kana (water lizard). The crocodile is also a symbol of the kore initiation society, and the guardian of faro's waters. The vertical part forms the body of the animal, which the tail is slightly curved. 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 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 to generation.
18th / 19th century or earlier.


Origin : Mali (Mali southern area, bordering on Ivory Coast)
Type : Door locks
Ethnic group : Bamana (Bambara)
Material : Wood, exceptional and aged patina, glossy in places

2991

Bamana door lock

This important door lock depicts a male ancestor. The face and the crested coiffure (bambada) are illustrated in a very abstract way. The head is represented by a striking triangular form with a concave face and a prominent ridge forming the bridge of the nose. The bambada hat depicts also the open jaws of the crocodile. The goiter figuration symbolizes the word and the komo's anti-sorcery powers.

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.

The body is finely incised with geometrical patterns and fertility symbols partially covered by the crusty patina. This very old door lock is of a pure and geometrical Bamana style.

18th / 19th century.


Origin : Mali (Djitoumou area, district of Bamako)
Type : Door locks
Ethnic group : Bamana (Bambara)
Material : Wood, very fine and crusty aged patina

4330

Bamana door lock

This very rare door lock depicts a female figure with a crested complex coiffure. The vertical part forms the body of the figure, the breast and the legs are sculpted. It symbolizes the protective spirit of the family (the guardian spirit, gné) which protects from robbers. Like the majority of the Bamana figures, door locks were traditionally sculpted by 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, and sanctuaries. 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.
Probably middle of the 19th century.


Origin : Mali (Dioila area)
Type : Door locks
Ethnic group : Bamana (Bambara)
Material : Wood, exceptional and aged patina

4340

Bamana door lock

This lock was intended to represent the kana (water iguana), and to protect against sorcerers and malevolent nyama (the spirits). The lizard head sits atop a stylised neck. This anthropomorphic feature reflects faro's possession of some human physical characteristics. This contextual association with the stylised form of a kana emphasizes the intimate relationship between faro (the deity of water) and this water creature.

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.
18th / 19th century.


Origin : Mali (Markala area, district of Segou)
Type : Door locks
Ethnic group : Bamana (Bambara)
Material : Wood with natural blond-colored and crusty patina

4347

Bamana door lock

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. The crocodile is also the totemic animal of the kore secret society, the guardian of faro's waters, and symbolizes fertility, wealth and good fortune. This mythical crocodile was the first to stow away the ark of creation in faro's pond, and thus is in close relationship with this deity. Like the majority of the Bamana figures, door locks were traditionally sculpted by 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.
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.
19th century.


Origin : Mali (Bougouni area)
Type : Door locks
Ethnic group : Bamana (Bambara)
Material : Wood, very fine age-old use patina

4370

Bamana door lock

This important door lock, depicting a female figure, was probably attached to the door of the enclosed area of the men's house (ty so). The presence on the door of a lock representing a woman was believed to prevent the man from being unfaithful to his wives. The face is surmounted by a headdress reminding the Bamana masks of the n'tomo initiation society.

Like the majority of the Bamana figures, door locks (called konbalabala) were traditionally sculpted by the blacksmiths. They 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. Each lock is given a name in accordance with its message, person, myth, or any anecdote referred to (here the n'tomo secret society).
19th century or earlier.


Origin : Mali
Type : Door locks
Ethnic group : Bamana (Bambara)
Material : Wood with a very age-old honey-colored patina from use

5094

Bamana door lock

This very fine door lock depicts a male figure. The face and the crested coiffure (bambada) are illustrated in a very abstract way (see attached pictures). The head is represented by a striking triangular form with a concave face and a prominent ridge forming the bridge of the nose. The body is incised with various geometrical patterns symbolizing the fertility, and the breast appears (symbol of the protective spirit). The goitre figuration symbolizes the word. 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.

Probably 19th century.


Origin : Mali (Bougouni area)
Type : Door locks
Ethnic group : Bamana (Bambara)
Material : Wood, very fine aged patina

5241


Door locks • Bozo • Mali
 

Bozo door lock

This granary door lock, with an oval-shaped body, depicts a crocodile in a very stylized way. Bozo people lives on banks of the Niger, near their Dogon neighbors. They are the most former population established in this area. They are fishing or paddlers. Their resources come from fishing, as well as the river transport. During several centuries, Bozo hold the monopoly of the transport of the rock salt plates coming from the mines located in the northern Mali, in Taoudeni (see attached picture). These plates are transported by the Bozo paddlers, which then take over the Tuareg caravans coming from the desert, from Timbuktu to Bamako.


Origin : Mali
Type : Door locks
Ethnic group : Bozo
Material : Wood, metal and aged patina

2281


Door locks • Dogon • Mali
 

Dogon chief door lock

This exceptional door lock is surmounted by a horse and its rider. The rider represents the hogon, the spiritual and temporal chief of the Dogon. He plays a role of mediator, judge, and also of guardian of the community. He also takes part in the preservation of the delicate relationship maintained by Men with the ancestors and the bush spirits.

This equestrian figure depicts the first hogon (also called lebe), before his metamorphosis in snake. Thus the Man and the supernatural merged, half human, half god. For the Dogon, lebe embodies all the vital forces of the nature.

By its dynamic style and its elegance, as well as the balance of its volumes, this sculpture can be considered as one of the masterpieces of the Dogon art.


Origin : Mali (Bandiagara cliffs area)
Type : Door locks
Ethnic group : Dogon
Material : Wood, old patina from use

2227

Dogon door lock

This door lock represents a human figure in an extremely abstract way. The vertical beam symbolizes the cultivated fields, and the rectangular patterns represent « the pond » (myth of Dogon Creation, tihinle). The legs are truncated below the body of the lock. Visually, the body of the lock becomes the body of the figure, and the bolt the arms.
18th / 19th century.


Origin : Mali (Bandiagara cliffs area)
Type : Door locks
Ethnic group : Dogon
Material : Wood, very age-old honey-colored patina from use

2142

Dogon door lock

This door lock is surmounted by a single human-like figure, probably a nommo, carved in a circular form. The primordial couple (of nommo or ancestors) is frequently represented on Dogon door locks, as a significant element of their cosmogony. The appearance of only one nommo (as here) is rather rare. The circular form may represent the Earth or a solar symbol.

Like the majority of the Dogon figures, door locks (ta koguru) were traditionally sculpted by blacksmiths. Blacksmiths (called jemene) belong to a caste of highest rank, they are at the same time Masters of fire (work of metal), and carve the major part of wooden objects. 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.


Origin : Mali (Sangha area, Bandiagara cliffs)
Type : Door locks
Ethnic group : Dogon
Material : Wood, patina from a very age-old use

2173

Dogon door lock

This door lock (called ta koguru) depicts in abstract way the primordial couple which gave birth to the four couples of nommo considered as being the eight ancestors of the mankind (Dogon myth of Creation). The horns of the walu antelope symbolize this couple of ancestors. These are rafters-carved, symbol of water and fertility, and also of the spiritual being nommo in water and rain. The truncated legs appear at the bottom of the lock, which becomes the body of the figures. It should also be noted stars engravings on the body.

18th / 19th century.


Origin : Mali (Kani Kombole village, Bandiagara cliffs)
Type : Door locks
Ethnic group : Dogon
Material : Wood, metal, beautiful aged brownish patina

2397

Dogon door lock

This door lock depicts in abstract way the primordial couple which gave birth to the four couples of nommo considered as being the eight ancestors of the mankind (Dogon myth of creation). The man and the woman are represented and symbolized by the antelope horns. The vertical beam is decorated with incised patterns which evoke the fields (terrestrial space and fertility) and the center of the universe. Therefore, these patterns are symbolizing water and fertility, and also the spiritual being nommo in water and rain. The truncated legs appear at the bottom of the lock, which becomes the body of the figures.
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.
17th / 19th century.


Origin : Mali (Bandiagara cliffs area)
Type : Door locks
Ethnic group : Dogon
Material : Fine aged granular patinated wood

2926

Dogon door lock

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.


Origin : Mali (Bandiagara plateau, village of Keti)
Type : Door locks
Ethnic group : Dogon
Material : Dense wood, brownish patina from use

4261

Dogon door lock

This door lock depicts in abstract way the primordial couple which gave birth to the four couples of nommo considered as being the eight ancestors of the mankind (Dogon myth of creation). The pointed horn-like structures atop this lock could represent as well stylised nommo figures or the horns of the antelope (ka). The vertical beam is decorated with incised and pyroengraved patterns which evoke the fields (terrestrial space and fertility) and the center of the universe. Therefore, these patterns are symbolizing water and fertility, and also the spiritual being nommo in water and rain.
This lock would have been used on the door of a binu sanctuary. The binu cult links the living to those early ancestors who are immortal. Locks of this type, representing the antelope, are used on the binu sanctuary doors or granaries of families for whom the animal is a totem.
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.
18th / 19th century.


Origin : Mali (Bandiagara cliffs, Teli area)
Type : Door locks
Ethnic group : Dogon
Material : Brownish patinated wood

4283

Dogon door lock

This granary lock, with a great variety of iconographic symbols, is surmounted by a couple of nommo, two of the eighth ancestors of the mankind (Dogon myth of creation, tihinle). The vertical beam is sculpted with patterns which evoke the fields and the water (terrestrial space and fertility), guarded by a crocodile ayo. The crocodile represents the animal that once belonged to the ancestor binu serou (the water element). Chevrons which are engraved symbolize water and fertility, and also the spiritual being nommo of binu serou in water and rain. This lock was used by the totemic priest of the binu cult for sealing his granary. The close association of such lock with vital food supplies harvested from binu fields means that it also symbolizes binu serou himself. The binu cult links the living to those early ancestors who are immortal.

This lock was fitted on a shutter placed midway up the granary wall. It provided access, throughout the year following harvests, to the goods stored inside (millet, sorghum, rice, corn). The Dogon granaries are narrow, four-sided or round, with a structure made of wood and covered with cob, and generally a thatch roof or a terrace roof (see pictures). Each lock is given a name in accordance with its message, person, myth, or any anecdote referred to. Door locks were passed down from generation to generation.
19th century.


Origin : Mali (Bandiagara cliffs, Ireli)
Type : Door locks
Ethnic group : Dogon
Material : Wood, metal, natural gray aged patina

4290

Dogon door lock

This door lock depicts in abstract way the primordial couple which gave birth to the four couples of nommo considered as being the eight ancestors of the mankind (Dogon myth of creation). The pointed horn-like structures atop this lock could represent as well stylised nommo figures or the horns of the antelope. The vertical beam is decorated with incised and pyroengraved patterns which evoke the fields (terrestrial space and fertility) and the center of the universe. Therefore, these patterns are symbolizing water and fertility, and also the spiritual being nommo in water and rain. The truncated legs appear at the bottom of the lock, which becomes the body of the figures.
This lock would have been used on the door of a binu sanctuary. The binu cult links the living to those early ancestors who are immortal. Locks of this type, representing the antelope, are used on the binu sanctuary doors or granaries of families for whom the animal is a totem.
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.
18th / 19th century.


Origin : Mali (Bandiagara cliffs, Ireli area)
Type : Door locks
Ethnic group : Dogon
Material : Brownish patinated wood

4304

Dogon door lock

This door lock depicts in abstract way a couple of nommo, two of the eighth ancestors of the mankind (Dogon myth of creation, tihinle). The pointed horn-like structures atop represent both stylized nommo figures and the horns of the antelope (ka). The vertical beam is sculpted with patterns which evoke the fields and growing (terrestrial space and fertility). Double-lined chevrons symbolize water and fertility, and also the spiritual being nommo of binu serou in water and rain. This lock was used by the totemic priest of the binu cult for sealing his granary. The close association of such lock with vital food supplies harvested from binu fields means that it also symbolizes binu serou himself. The binu cult links the living to those early ancestors who are immortal. The starry pattern engraved on the bolt would be both the symbol of the universe and of the Sirius satellite.

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 passed down from generation to generation.
18th / 19th century.


Origin : Mali (Bandiagara cliffs, Yougo Na)
Type : Door locks
Ethnic group : Dogon
Material : Brownish patinated wood

4311

Dogon door lock

This granary lock, with a great variety of iconographic symbols, depicts in abstract way a couple of nommo, two of the eighth ancestors of the mankind (Dogon myth of creation, tihinle). The pointed horn-like structures atop represent both stylised nommo figures and the horns of the antelope (ka). The vertical beam is sculpted with patterns which evoke the fields and growing (terrestrial space and fertility), guarded by a crocodile ayo (see attached pictures). The crocodile represents the animal that once belonged to the ancestor binu serou (the water element). Double-lined chevrons are engraved around the fields, and symbolize water and fertility, and also the spiritual being nommo of binu serou in water and rain. This lock was used by the totemic priest of the binu cult for sealing his granary. The close association of such lock with vital food supplies harvested from binu fields means that it also symbolizes binu serou himself. The binu cult links the living to those early ancestors who are immortal.

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 passed down from generation to generation.
18th / 19th century.


Origin : Mali (Bandiagara cliffs, Ireli)
Type : Door locks
Ethnic group : Dogon
Material : Wood, metal, natural gray aged patina

4318

Dogon door lock

This elaborate lock, richly decorated with bronze facing, represents both a bird and a protective ancestor. It would be a stork (associated with the rainy season and the fertility of growing) or the representation of the ostrich (ogotanala), allegory of the lebe snake. The ostrich (ogotanala) is known for its zigzag course when running. This zigzagging is symbolic of lebe because it replicates his movements. These bird's and snake's movements are also similar to those of the nommo as they fell to earth in the form of rain.
Lebe, part human and part supernatural, metamorphosed into a snake (it is in this form that lebe is believed to exist today), introduced death to the world. He visits the hogon, licks his body, and in so doing gives him and all humanity the strength to live. For the Dogon, lebe is the mainspring of germination and the source of vital life force. Lebe is also symbolized by the patterns placed on the body (which are also the representation of water and fertility of growing).
Wooden door locks (ta koguru) 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. Sculpted by the blacksmith of the village for the hogon (spiritual chief) and notables, door locks are one of the major elements of Dogon art. Apart from its rarity and its fine decorations, this lock was probably the property of a notable.
18th / 19th century.


Origin : Mali (Seno plain, area bordering the Burkina Faso)
Type : Door locks
Ethnic group : Dogon
Material : Wood, bronze facing, very age-old patina from use

4319

Dogon door lock

This Dogon door lock (ta koguru) is surmounted by the horns of the walu antelope. These horns are finely carved with steps, like a Dogon ladder. The horns symbolize a couple of nommo ancestors in an abstract way. The particularity of this lock lies in the receptacle sculpted at the bottom. It was probably closed by a small shutter, and would have contained a totemic stone (dugo) that connect the granary owner to his immediate ancestor.

Wooden door locks (ta koguru) were used on the doors of dwellings, cookhouses, sanctuaries, and on granary shutters (see attached picture). They were a prized gift for young brides, and passed down from generation to generation. Each lock is given a name in accordance with its message, person, myth, or any anecdote referred to. The antelope protects by its symbolic strength the house against robbers, and generally wards off fate.
18th / 19th century.


Origin : Mali (Kambari area, Bandiagara cliffs)
Type : Door locks
Ethnic group : Dogon
Material : Wood with brown and weathered gray patina

4333

Dogon door lock

This elaborate lock combines the symbolism of the lebe snake (the first hogon, spiritual chief of the Dogon) and what appear to be the nommo twins of amma serou, another early Dogon ancestor. Lebe, part human and part supernatural, metamorphosed into a snake (it is in this form that lebe is believed to exist today), introduced death to the world. He visits the hogon, licks his body, and in so doing gives him and all humanity the strength to live. For the Dogon, lebe is the mainspring of germination and the source of vital life force. Lebe is symbolized both by rows of chevrons (which are also the representation of water and fertility), and by the ostriches carved at the bottom. The ostrich (ogotanala) is known for its zigzag course when running. This zigzagging is symbolic of lebe because it replicates his movements. These bird's and snake's movements are also similar to those of the nommo as they fell to earth in the form of rain.
Wooden door locks (ta koguru) 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. Sculpted by the blacksmith of the village for the hogon (spiritual chief) and notables, door locks are one of the major elements of Dogon art. Apart from its rarity and its finely construction, this door lock is the work of a great sculptor.
19th century.


Origin : Mali (Kani Kombole area, district of Bankass)
Type : Door locks
Ethnic group : Dogon
Material : Wood, metal, dark aged patina

4341

Dogon door lock

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.


Origin : Mali (Ireli area)
Type : Door locks
Ethnic group : Dogon
Material : Wood, very fine crusty and glossy aged patina

4345

Dogon granary door lock

This very beautiful granary door lock, with an oval-shaped vertical beam, is surmounted by a bird. It should be the ostrich known for its zigzag course, symbol of the lebe snake and the course of the nommo falling on the earth in the form of rain (Dogon myth of Creation).

This door lock was fastened to a shutter placed midway up the granary wall, and provided access to the goods stored inside. The Dogon granaries are narrow, four-sided or round, with a structure made of wood and covered with cob, and generally a thatch roof (see picture). This physical protection is elaborated through a magic protection symbolized by the form as well as its iconography. This door lock has its key (ta i).
18th / 19th century.


Origin : Mali (Sangui area)
Type : Door locks
Ethnic group : Dogon
Material : Wood, metal, aged patina

2272

Dogon granary door lock

This small Dogon granary door lock is surmounted by two finely carved ostriches. The chevrons borders, carved on the rectangular central section (representing the pond), symbolize the lebe snake, as well as the fertilizing rain. The central figure represents a tortoise in very abstract way. The tortoise is one of totemic animals of the Dogon. One as well finds it represented on shutters, as on attic posts, doors, or door locks. Aquatic animal related to the fertility of growing, it protects by its symbolic strength the granary against robbers, and generally wards off fate. Note the fine work in the lower part, depicting nommo legs (the spiritual being nommo is present in water and rain). Lebe, part human and part supernatural, metamorphosed into a snake (it is in this form that lebe is believed to exist today), introduced death to the world. He visits the hogon, licks his body, and in so doing gives him and all humanity the strength to live. For the Dogon, lebe is the mainspring of germination and the source of vital life force. Lebe is symbolized both by the chevrons (which are also the representation of water and fertility), and by the ostriches carved atop. The ostrich (ogotanala) is known for its zigzag course when running. This zigzagging is symbolic of lebe because it replicates his movements. These bird's and snake's movements are also similar to those of the nommo as they fell to earth in the form of rain.
Sculpted by the blacksmith of the village for the hogon (spiritual chief) and notables, granary door locks are one of the major elements of Dogon art. Apart from its rarity, its finely construction and its small size, this door lock is the work of a great sculptor.

Origin : Collection Tony Paredis, Anvers, 1990


Origin : Mali (Bandiagara cliffs area, Teli village)
Type : Door locks
Ethnic group : Dogon
Material : Wood, remarkably beautiful and aged patina

2949

Dogon granary door lock

This Dogon granary door lock is surmounted by a slender-shaped bird. It would be both a stork (associated with the rainy season and the fertility of growing) and the representation of the ostrich (ogotanala). The latter is known for its zigzag course when running. This zigzagging is symbolic of the lebe snake because it replicates his movements. These bird's and snake's movements are also similar to those of the nommo as they fell to earth in the form of rain. Lebe, or lebe serou, symbolizes the earth and the first hogon (spiritual and temporal leader of the Dogon). Part human and part supernatural, metamorphosed into a snake (it is in this form that lebe is believed to exist today), lebe introduced death to the world. He visits the hogon, licks his body, and in so doing gives him and all humanity the strength to live. For the Dogon, lebe is the mainspring of germination and the source of vital life force.
The central element represents the frontage of the lebe sanctuary. Note the fine starry engravings on the left part of the bolt and on the vertical beam. It would be the symbol of Sirius and its satellite of which the eclipse is closely connected with the sigui ceremonies. The sigui is a dance festival celebrated only once in every sixty years to assure the renewal of the world. Circles would be both the symbol of the original seed () and of the amma placenta. Their association with the chevrons, placed on the upside, speaks of the rainy season and agricultural fertility. This association would represent the vibration of the original matter in the placenta, which gave birth to the first human being, the nommo anagonno (a fish). What is unusual about these engravings is not only their diversity, but also their relationships to one another.
This remarkable door lock, richly decorated with a multitude of symbols, was probably used on the shutter of a granary belonging to the lebe sanctuary or the hogon.
18th / 19th century.


Origin : Mali (Bandiagara cliffs, village of Yougo Piri)
Type : Door locks
Ethnic group : Dogon
Material : Wood, metal inlaying, beautiful and aged patina

4257

Dogon granary door lock

This very old granary door lock represents the water tortoise (kiru). The water tortoise would be symbolic of the placenta of the nommo, and locks with this unique figure are often affixed to the granaries holding the harvest of a hogon's field. Locks depicting the water tortoise are also affixed to the granary doors of women who capture these reptiles in the bush and keep them in their compounds for purification rites. These rites are associated with the postpartum period and menstruation. However, the legend about the tortoise varies greatly, so it seems unwise to draw too close an analogy with mythological events.

This lock was fitted on a shutter placed midway up the granary wall. It provided access, throughout the year following harvests, to the goods stored inside (millet, sorghum, rice, corn). The Dogon granaries are narrow, four-sided or round, with a structure made of wood and covered with cob, and generally a thatch roof or a terrace roof. Each lock is given a name in accordance with its message, person, myth, or any anecdote referred to.
Probably 18th century.


Origin : Mali (Bandiagara cliffs, village of Yougo Dogorou)
Type : Door locks
Ethnic group : Dogon
Material : Wood, deep brown patina

4259

Dogon granary door lock

This Dogon granary door lock is surmounted by a slender-shaped bird. It would be both a stork (associated with the rainy season and the fertility of growing) and the representation of the ostrich (ogotanala). The latter is known for its zigzag course when running. This zigzagging is symbolic of the lebe snake because it replicates his movements. These bird's and snake's movements are also similar to those of the nommo as they fell to earth in the form of rain. Lebe, or lebe serou, symbolizes the Earth and the first hogon (spiritual and temporal leader of the Dogon). Part human and part supernatural, metamorphosed into a snake (it is in this form that lebe is believed to exist today), lebe introduced death to the world. He visits the hogon, licks his body, and in so doing gives him and all humanity the strength to live. For the Dogon, lebe is the mainspring of germination and the source of vital life force. The chevrons engraved on the left side of the bolt symbolize both the lebe snake and the fertilizing rain.
This remarkable door lock, with both pure and harmonious forms, was probably used on the shutter of a granary belonging to the lebe sanctuary.
18th / 19th century.


Origin : Mali (Bandiagara cliffs, Sangha area)
Type : Door locks
Ethnic group : Dogon
Material : Wood, remarkably beautiful and aged patina

4272

Dogon granary door lock

This Dogon granary door lock is surmounted by a very stylized bird. It would be both a stork (associated with the rainy season and the fertility of growing) and the representation of the ostrich (ogotanala). The latter is known for its zigzag course when running. This zigzagging is symbolic of the lebe snake because it replicates his movements. These bird's and snake's movements are also similar to those of the nommo as they fell to earth in the form of rain. Lebe, or lebe serou, symbolizes the Earth and the first hogon (spiritual and temporal leader of the Dogon). Part human and part supernatural, metamorphosed into a snake (it is in this form that lebe is believed to exist today), lebe introduced death to the world. He visits the hogon, licks his body, and in so doing gives him and all humanity the strength to live. For the Dogon, lebe is the mainspring of germination and the source of vital life force. The chevrons engraved on the left side of the bolt symbolize both the lebe snake and the fertilizing rain.
This remarkable door lock, with both abstract and harmonious forms, was probably used on the shutter of a granary belonging to the lebe sanctuary.
18th / 19th century.


Origin : Mali (Bandiagara cliffs area, Yougo Na)
Type : Door locks
Ethnic group : Dogon
Material : Wood, remarkably beautiful and aged patina

4273

Dogon granary door lock

This Dogon granary door lock is surmounted by two birds facing each other. It would be a couple of storks (associated with the rainy season and the fertility of growing) or the representation of the ostriches. The ostrich (ogotanala) is known for its zigzag course when running. This zigzagging is symbolic of the lebe snake because it replicates his movements. These bird's and snake's movements are also similar to those of the nommo as they fell to earth in the form of rain. Lebe, or lebe serou, symbolizes the Earth and the first hogon (spiritual and temporal leader of the Dogon). Part human and part supernatural, metamorphosed into a snake (it is in this form that lebe is believed to exist today), lebe introduced death to the world. He visits the hogon, licks his body, and in so doing gives him and all humanity the strength to live. For the Dogon, lebe is the mainspring of germination and the source of vital life force. The chevrons engraved atop and at the bottom of the vertical beam symbolize both the lebe snake and the fertilizing rain. Note the fine starry motif engraved on the left part of the bolt. It would be the symbol of the Sirius satellite of which the eclipse is closely connected with the sigui ceremonies. The sigui is a dance festival celebrated only once in every sixty years to assure the renewal of the world.
This remarkable door lock, certainly the work of a great sculptor, was probably used on the shutter of a granary belonging to the lebe sanctuary.
18th / 19th century.


Origin : Mali (Bandiagara cliffs area, Teli)
Type : Door locks
Ethnic group : Dogon
Material : Wood, remarkably beautiful and aged patina

4276

Dogon granary door lock

This granary door lock represents a single human-like figure, probably a nommo or the ancestor binu serou. The originality of the body lies in the square openwork design in the center of the vertical beam, engraved with double-lined chevrons around it. Chevrons patterns symbolize water and fertility, and also the spiritual being nommo of binu serou in water and rain. This lock was probably used by the totemic priest of the binu cult for sealing his granary, or by a blacksmith. The close association of such lock with vital food supplies harvested from binu fields means that it also symbolizes binu serou himself. The binu cult links the living to those early ancestors who are immortal.

Like the majority of wooden sculptures, door locks were traditionally sculpted by blacksmiths. They belong to a caste of highest rank, they are at the same time Masters of fire (work of metal), and carve the major part of wooden objects. 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.
Early 19th century.


Origin : Mali (Bandiagara cliffs, Banani village)
Type : Door locks
Ethnic group : Dogon
Material : Wood, very age-old patina from use

4286

Dogon granary door lock

This elaborate lock, richly decorated with bronze facing, is surmounted by a protective ancestor (may be lebe serou) placed opposite with a bird at the bottom. It would be a stork (associated with the rainy season and the fertility of growing) or the representation of the ostrich (ogotanala), allegory of the lebe snake. The ostrich (ogotanala) is known for its zigzag course when running. This zigzagging is symbolic of lebe because it replicates his movements. These bird's and snake's movements are also similar to those of the nommo as they fell to earth in the form of rain.
Lebe serou, part human and part supernatural, metamorphosed into a snake (it is in this form that lebe is believed to exist today), introduced death to the world. He visits the hogon, licks his body, and in so doing gives him and all humanity the strength to live. For the Dogon, lebe is the mainspring of germination and the source of vital life force : the Earth. Lebe is also symbolized by the chevrons engraved on the body (which are also the representation of water).
Wooden door locks (ta koguru) 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. Sculpted by the blacksmith of the village for the hogon (spiritual chief) and notables, door locks are one of the major elements of Dogon art.
19th century.


Origin : Mali (Seno plain, area bordering the Burkina Faso)
Type : Door locks
Ethnic group : Dogon
Material : Wood, bronze facing, very age-old patina from use

4287

Dogon granary door lock

This very old granary door lock is surmounted by the representation of the antelope mask walu. This mask was used during commemorative ceremonies of dama, every five years. It was accompanied by hundreds of other masked dancers, thus forming an abstract representation of the environment of the Dogon people. The antelope mask is admired by Dogon for its beauty and the strength of its performances. The origin of dama ceremony has close links with the worship of the ancestors (and death), as well as with the balance of the Universe. At the mythical time, masks were first acquired and used to counteract the negative effects of death. By reenacting the behavior of their mythic ancestors, as on this lock, the Dogon strive to restore order to their world after the disruption caused by death.

It was fitted on a shutter placed midway up the granary wall. It provided access, throughout the year following harvests, to the goods stored inside (millet, sorghum, rice, corn). The Dogon granaries are narrow, four-sided or round, with a structure made of wood and covered with cob, and generally a thatch roof or a terrace roof (see pictures). 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.
18th / 19th century.


Origin : Mali (Bandiagara cliffs, Teli)
Type : Door locks
Ethnic group : Dogon
Material : Brownish patinated wood

4305

Dogon granary door lock

This elaborate small lock represents both bird and lebe, the first hogon of the Dogon who was a descendant of the eighth nommo. It would be a stork (associated with the rainy season and the fertility of growing) or the representation of the ostrich (ogotanala), allegory of the lebe snake. The ostrich (ogotanala) is known for its zigzag course when running. This zigzagging is symbolic of lebe because it replicates his movements. These bird's and snake's movements are also similar to those of the nommo as they fell to earth in the form of rain.
Lebe, part human and part supernatural, metamorphosed into a snake (it is in this form that lebe is believed to exist today), introduced death to the world. He visits the hogon, licks his body, and in so doing gives him and all humanity the strength to live. For the Dogon, lebe is the mainspring of germination and the source of vital life force. Lebe is also symbolized by the chevrons engraved on the lock (which are also the representation of water and fertility of growing).
This remarkable door lock was probably used on the shutter of a granary belonging to the lebe sanctuary. The small dish sculpted in front of the bird would be only of passing interest, but also the symbol of the offertories made to lebe serou.
18th / 19th century.


Origin : Mali (Bandiagara cliffs area, Teli)
Type : Door locks
Ethnic group : Dogon
Material : Wood, remarkably beautiful and aged patina

4315

Dogon granary door lock

This Dogon granary door lock (ta koguru) is surmounted by a cruciform design. This very abstract form could represent the god amma, coded as such by the sky at the top, the air, and the earth. Water should be symbolized by the rectangular-shaped form carved on the body. It would be also the representation of the four elements and the four cardinal points. It's the same form as the inside compartments of a granary.

Wooden door locks (ta koguru) were used on the doors of dwellings, cookhouses, sanctuaries, and on granary shutters (see attached picture). They were a prized gift for young brides, given to women by their husbands as a sign of esteem and affection once they have given birth to a son, and passed down from generation to generation. As such, they conferred enhanced social status. Each lock is given a name in accordance with its message, person, myth, or any anecdote referred to.
18th / 19th century.


Origin : Mali (Bandiagara cliffs, Teli)
Type : Door locks
Ethnic group : Dogon
Material : Wood, metal, aged patina

4323

Dogon granary door lock

The pointed horn-like structures atop this lock could represent highly stylised nommo figures or the horns of the antelope (ka). The horns pointed at the bottom could symbolize the legs. This lock would have been used on the door of a binu sanctuary granary. The binu cult links the living to those early ancestors who are immortal. This lock is remarkable for its perfect symmetrical figures, its geometric and pure Dogon style.

Wooden door locks (ta koguru) were used on the doors of dwellings, cookhouses, sanctuaries, and on granary shutters (see attached picture). They were a prized gift for young brides, and passed down from generation to generation. Each lock is given a name in accordance with its message, person, myth, or any anecdote referred to. The antelope protects by its symbolic strength the house against robbers, and generally wards off fate.

Probably 18th / 19th century.


Origin : Mali (Ende area, Bandiagara cliffs)
Type : Door locks
Ethnic group : Dogon
Material : Wood, very age-old honey-colored patina from use

4343

Dogon granary door lock

This granary door lock (called ta koguru) is carved with a couple of nommo figures. These symbolize a strong magic and spiritual force. This force is then, according to beliefs' animists of Dogon, imparted to the door lock. In the Dogon myth of the creation of the Earth, the amma god bore a being figure known as nommo (the nommo anagonno, symbolized by a fish). This nommo gave birth to four couples of nommo, considered as the eight ancestors of the mankind (unum) and the four elements.

It was fitted on a shutter placed midway up the granary wall. It provided access, throughout the year following harvests, to the goods stored inside (millet, sorghum, rice, corn). The Dogon granaries are narrow, four-sided or round, with a structure made of wood and covered with cob, and generally a thatch roof or a terrace roof (see pictures).

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.
18th / 19th century.


Origin : Mali (Teli area)
Type : Door locks
Ethnic group : Dogon
Material : Wood, metal, dark aged patina

4362

Dogon granary door lock

This very old granary door lock is surmounted by the representation of the antelope mask walu. This mask was used during commemorative ceremonies of dama, every five years. It was accompanied by hundreds of other masked dancers, thus forming an abstract representation of the environment of the Dogon people. The antelope mask is admired by Dogon for its beauty and the strength of its performances. The origin of dama ceremony has close links with the worship of the ancestors (and death), as well as with the balance of the Universe. At the mythical time, masks were first acquired and used to counteract the negative effects of death. By reenacting the behavior of their mythic ancestors, as on this lock, the Dogon strive to restore order to their world after the disruption caused by death.

It was fitted on a shutter placed midway up the granary wall. It provided access, throughout the year following harvests, to the goods stored inside (millet, sorghum, rice, corn). The Dogon granaries are narrow, four-sided or round, with a structure made of wood and covered with cob, and generally a thatch roof or a terrace roof (see pictures). 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.
18th / 19th century.


Origin : Mali (Bandiagara cliffs area)
Type : Door locks
Ethnic group : Dogon
Material : Brownish patinated wood

5305

Dogon granary door lock

This granary door lock (called ta koguru) is carved with a couple of nommo figures. These symbolize a strong magic and spiritual force. This force is then, according to beliefs' animists of Dogon, imparted to the door lock. In the Dogon myth of the creation of the Earth, the amma god bore a being figure known as nommo (the nommo anagonno, symbolized by a fish). This nommo gave birth to four couples of nommo, considered as the eight ancestors of the mankind (unum) and the four elements.

It was fitted on a shutter placed midway up the granary wall. It provided access, throughout the year following harvests, to the goods stored inside (millet, sorghum, rice, corn). The Dogon granaries are narrow, four-sided or round, with a structure made of wood and covered with cob, and generally a thatch roof or a terrace roof (see pictures).

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.
19th century.


Origin : Mali (Teli area)
Type : Door locks
Ethnic group : Dogon
Material : Wood, metal, dark aged patina

5335

Dogon granary door lock

This Dogon granary door lock is surmounted by a slender-shaped bird. It would be both a stork (associated with the rainy season and the fertility of growing) and the representation of the ostrich (ogotanala). The latter is known for its zigzag course when running. This zigzagging is symbolic of the lebe snake because it replicates his movements. These bird's and snake's movements are also similar to those of the nommo as they fell to earth in the form of rain. Lebe, or lebe serou, symbolizes the Earth and the first hogon (spiritual and temporal leader of the Dogon). Part human and part supernatural, metamorphosed into a snake (it is in this form that lebe is believed to exist today), lebe introduced death to the world. He visits the hogon, licks his body, and in so doing gives him and all humanity the strength to live. For the Dogon, lebe is the mainspring of germination and the source of vital life force. The chevrons engraved on the left side of the bolt symbolize both the lebe snake and the fertilizing rain.
This remarkable door lock, with both pure and harmonious forms, was probably used on the shutter of a granary belonging to the lebe sanctuary.
19th century.

Origin : Private collection, Paris


Origin : Mali (Bandiagara cliffs)
Type : Door locks
Ethnic group : Dogon
Material : Wood, beautiful and aged patina

5357


Door locks • Kurumba • Burkina Faso
 

Kurumba door lock

This very rare and small granary door lock depicts a crocodile. 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. This door lock protected the granary by its symbolic strength.
Probably 19th century.

Provenance : André Blandin collection


Origin : Burkina Faso (Djibo area, northern Burkina Faso)
Type : Door locks
Ethnic group : Kurumba
Material : Bright-brownish eroded wood, aged patina

2997


Door locks • Malinke • Mali
 

Malinke door lock

This lock was intended to represent the hornbill, associated with the rainy season and the fertility of growing. Birds are almost an exclusive theme of the Malinke door lock. The lower portion of the vertical beam is sculpted in the form of a long beak, while the flare atop could represent the tail. The surfaces of this lock are devoid of designs, but the bolt is sculpted with an unusual knob on the right side where the key is inserted.

The Malinke live in southwestern Mali in the areas of Wassalou and Baninko. They also live in the northwestern adjacent areas near the district of Djitoumou and Kita, and in Guinea. Sharing a number of cultural commonalities and rituals with their neighbors, the Bamana, Malinke locks have certain features in common with their Bamana counterparts in terms of overall structure, locking devices, and engraved symbols.
19th century or earlier.


Origin : Mali (Kita area)
Type : Door locks
Ethnic group : Malinke
Material : Very hard wood, crusty aged patina

4248

Malinke door lock

This lock was intended to represent the swallow (nanalékou), and to protect against sorcerers. However, it could also symbolize the hornbill, associated with the rainy season and the fertility of growing. A characteristic feature of the Malinke door locks, the triangular head sits atop a stylized rectangular neck, and the terminal flare at the base would be a tail-like shape. The central motif engraved, a large double-lined X, represents both a powerful fertility symbol, water, and the four cardinal angles. The swallow symbolizes the water deity and his powers, as the faro's aerial messenger in the Bamana legends of creation.

The Malinke live in southwestern Mali in the areas of Wassalou and Baninko. They also live in the northwestern adjacent areas near the district of Djitoumou and Kita, and in Guinea. Sharing a number of cultural commonalities and rituals with their neighbors, the Bamana, Malinke locks have certain features in common with their Bamana counterparts in terms of overall structure, locking devices, and engraved symbols.
19th century or earlier.


Origin : Mali (Yanfoilla area)
Type : Door locks
Ethnic group : Malinke
Material : Very hard wood, fine aged and eroded patina

4253


Door locks • Mossi • Burkina Faso
 

Chieftainship Mossi door lock

This rare and exceptional door lock is composed of two crossbeams, attesting it was reserved for a chieftainship door as an element of prestige. The crossbeams are sculpted in an old traditional crenellated fashion.
It represents the protective spirit of harvests, which takes care of the house and the granaries. The engraved patterns on the central part depict the scars worn by Mossi women who have given birth. The face, with an elongated neck, carries a very finely carved headdress. The lower part ends in a long tail of crocodile.
Apart from its extreme rarity, its construction, and its monumental size, this door lock is a masterpiece of Mossi art.
18th / 19th century or earlier.

Origin : Private collection, Brussels, 1990


Origin : Burkina Faso
Type : Door locks
Ethnic group : Mossi
Material : Thick bright-brownish wood, very fine aged patina from use

2954

Mossi door lock

This very beautiful Mossi door lock is entirely decorated with geometrical patterns. The bolt is sculpted in an old traditional crenellated fashion (with wood prongs in the locking mechanism).

The face, with an elongated neck, carries a very finely carved headdress. This door lock represents agricultural fertility and the protective spirit that takes care of the house and the granaries.
19th century or earlier.


Origin : Burkina Faso (Kongoussi area)
Type : Door locks
Ethnic group : Mossi
Material : Wood, deep brown patina from use

2306

Mossi door lock

This rare and exceptional door lock is composed of two crossbeams (generally reserved for chieftainship door locks, as an element of prestige). It represents a protective spirit of harvests. The engraved patterns on the vertical beam are depicting the scars worn by Mossi women who have given birth.
19th century or earlier.


Origin : Burkina Faso (Kongoussi area)
Type : Door locks
Ethnic group : Mossi
Material : Wood, deep granitic brown patina

2307


Door locks • Tellem • Mali
 

Dogon granary door lock

This granary door lock is surmounted by a single human-like figure, probably a nommo ancestor, or andoumboulou (the first occupiers of the Bandiagara cliffs). The appearance of only one nommo (as here) is rather rare. This lock is coming from the deserted Tellem village of Yougo Dogorou, cave dwellers settlement in the cliffs. These caves and deserted old granaries are considered as sacred places by the Dogon themselves (see attached pictures).
This wooden door lock was probably used on a granary shutter. Like the majority of wooden sculptures, door locks were traditionally sculpted by blacksmiths. They belong to a caste of highest rank, they are at the same time Masters of fire (work of metal), and carve the major part of wooden objects. 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.
This lock has been identified by a Dogon blacksmith as the work of a Tellem artist.
14th / 15th century.


Origin : Mali (Yougo Dogorou village)
Type : Door locks
Ethnic group : Tellem / Dogon
Material : Natural blond-colored wood, metal, aged patina

4327


Ethnographic items • Bozo • Mali
 

Bozo stool

This small and very ancient wooden stool has been collected in the Bozo country. The evidence of wear, on the upper square surface and on the supports, suggests that it was made to sit on. It may be that it was intended for use by women or children, or a boatman. This stool is extraordinary in its slender and symmetrical character, and its old-used patina (probably 19th century or earlier).

Bozo people lives on banks of the Niger, near their Dogon neighbors. They are the most former population established in this area. They are fishing or paddlers. Their resources come from fishing, as well as the river transport. During several centuries, Bozo hold the monopoly of the transport of the rock salt plates coming from the mines located in the northern Mali, in Taoudeni (see picture). These plates are transported by the Bozo paddlers, which then take over the Tuareg caravans coming from the desert, from Timbuktu to Bamako.


Origin : Mali (Mopti area)
Type : Ethnographic items
Ethnic group : Bozo
Material : Very dense beige wood, age-old used patina

2547


Ethnographic items • Bwa • Burkina Faso
 

Bwa women stool

Among the Bwa, such stools, as well as other personal property, become intimately associated with the spirit of the owner after decades of use. So that when she dies her stool is placed on the family ancestral shrine as a vehicle for communication from one generation to the next.

Men have personal stools which invariably have three legs, while women's stools have four. The numbers four and three are associated with the female and male genders in much of Africa. This graceful stool comes equipped with a handle that represents a head and whose surface gives evidence of decades of use.
19th century or earlier.


Origin : Burkina Faso (Dedougou area)
Type : Ethnographic items
Ethnic group : Bwa
Material : Very dense wood, very age-old used patina

5350


Ethnographic items • Lobi • Burkina Faso
 

Lobi stool

Among the Lobi, such stools, as well as other personal property, become intimately associated with the spirit of the owner after decades of use. So that when the owner dies as a respected elder his stool is placed on the family ancestral shrine as a vehicle for communication from one generation to the next.

Men have personal stools which invariably have three legs, while women's stools have four. The numbers four and three are associated with the female and male genders in much of Africa. This graceful stool comes equipped with a handle that projects in front and whose surface gives evidence of decades of use.
19th century or earlier.


Origin : Burkina Faso (Southwestern area of the Black Volta River)
Type : Ethnographic items
Ethnic group : Lobi (or Dagari)
Material : Very dense beige wood, very age-old used patina

4278


Ethnographic items • Tuareg • Mauritania
 

Tuareg pole

In Saharan daily life, wood is one of the most important materials, and is used for the poles and beams of the nomads' tents, as well as bed frames, milking bowls and dishes. Sharpened to a point for standing upright in a nomadic encampment, it should have been used for hanging leather bags. The upper half is elaborately and carefully carved with semicircles, triangular and « lotus flower » shapes.
This pole, almost totemic, is an important item in any household. It was carved by members of the guild known as Enaden (literally « the other »), blacksmiths who have been instrumental in the creation of precisely those things that have forever distinguished the upper classes of this society (the imochar, the warriors, and the insilimen, the religious teachers). This artisan guild, although regarded as culturally important, has always been socially marginalized. While the Enaden are blacksmiths, they are also carvers, and their products are among the most potent of symbols.
Early 20th century.


Origin : Mauritania (Niger or western Sahara)
Type : Ethnographic items
Ethnic group : Tuareg
Material : Wood, old brownish-red patina from use

4299

Tuareg pole

In Saharan daily life, wood is one of the most important materials, and is used for the poles and beams of the nomads' tents, as well as bed frames, milking bowls and dishes. Sharpened to a point for standing upright in a nomadic encampment, it should have been used for hanging leather bags. The upper half is elaborately and carefully carved with semicircles, triangular and « lotus flower » shapes.
This pole, almost totemic, is an important item in any house-hold. It was carved by members of the guild known as Enaden (literally « the other »), blacksmiths who have been instrumental in the creation of precisely those things that have forever distinguished the upper classes of this society (the imochar, the warriors, and the insilimen, the religious teachers). This artisan guild, although regarded as culturally important, has always been socially marginalized. While the Enaden are blacksmiths, they are also carvers, and their products are among the most potent of symbols.
19th or early 20th century.


Origin : Mauritania (Niger or western Sahara)
Type : Ethnographic items
Ethnic group : Tuareg
Material : Wood, old brownish-red patina from use

4356


Jewellery and materials • Bwa • Burkina Faso
 

Bwa pendant

This Bwa pendant is symbolizing a crescent of the moon, as well as three small birds. Worn with a leather link, it was used to chase away the ghostly spirits and disease.
17th / 19th century.


Origin : Burkina Faso (Hounde area)
Type : Jewellery and materials
Ethnic group : Bwa
Material : Patinated bronze, made using the process of lost wax

2929


Jewellery and materials • Dogon • Mali
 

Dogon pendant

This Dogon pendant is representing a solar symbol and its radiance. Worn with a leather link, it was the privilege of the ginna chief (house of the lineage), and sometimes by certain aged persons. The pendant enclosed the spiritual and protective strength of the lineage, it is not just an ornament, but reveals the cultural identity.
17th / 19th century.


Origin : Mali (Bandiagara cliffs area)
Type : Jewellery and materials
Ethnic group : Dogon
Material : Patinated bronze, made using the process of lost wax

2916


Jewellery and materials • Kuba • D. R. Congo
 

Kuba ceremonial skirt

This raffia cloth is a woman's overskirt (called ncaka kot), worn by the Kuba for special occasions and funerals. These skirts were worn by family and friends to celebrate the life of the deceased. As among other groups neighbor of the Kuba, men are alone responsible for all stages of the preparation of fiber and completion of weaving.
It consists of embroidered and appliquéd motifs, in which each symbol are named to correspond to the shape it represents.

End of 19th century / early 20th century.

Origin : Purchased from Yves Develon, Paris


Origin : D. R. Congo
Type : Jewellery and materials
Ethnic group : Kuba (Bushoong)
Material : Raffia

2932

Kuba raffia cloth

This old raffia cloth was used as a wedding present (a dowry). As among other groups neighbor of the Kuba, men are alone responsible for all stages of the preparation of fiber and completion of weaving. It consists of embroidered and appliquéd motifs, in which each symbol is named to correspond to the shape it represents. The raised patterns on this cloth were produced by a technique of « cut pile » embroidery.
Late 19th / early 20th century.


Origin : D. R. Congo (Kasai River area)
Type : Jewellery and materials
Ethnic group : Kuba (Bushoong)
Material : Raffia, natural pigments

4291

Kuba raffia cloth

This old raffia cloth was used as a wedding present (a dowry). As among other groups neighbor of the Kuba, men are alone responsible for all stages of the preparation of fiber and completion of weaving. It consists of embroidered and appliquéd motifs, in which each symbol is named to correspond to the shape it represents. The raised patterns on this cloth were produced by a technique of « cut pile » embroidery.
Late 19th / early 20th century.


Origin : D. R. Congo (Kasai River area)
Type : Jewellery and materials
Ethnic group : Kuba (Bushoong)
Material : Raffia, natural pigments

4293


Jewellery and materials • Lobi • Burkina Faso
 

Lobi bracelet

This heavy and very old bronze bracelet, Lobi or may be Fra-Fra, was probably a wedding gift, offered by a father to his daughter or by a man to his wife. She will keep it throughout her life. It is not just an ornament, but reveals the cultural and tribal identity, and the status of the woman who wears it.
18th / 19th century.


Origin : Burkina Faso
Type : Jewellery and materials
Ethnic group : Lobi
Material : Patinated bronze, made using the process of lost wax

2531

Lobi pendant

This Lobi or Loro pendant is symbolizing, in very abstract way, four snake or crocodile heads jointed around a circular form. Worn with a leather link, it was used to chase away the ghostly spirits. This pendant enclosed the protective strength of the lineage.
Just west of the Black Volta river, this particular region appears to be a place where a high degree of artistry in copper has been found. Enjoying the patronage of both the Lobi and Koulango, the Loro were pre-eminent in the field of metal casting.
17th / 19th century.


Origin : Burkina Faso (Southern Burkina Faso, bordering Ivory Coast)
Type : Jewellery and materials
Ethnic group : Lobi (or Loro)
Material : Patinated copper alloys, made using the process of lost wax

4338


Jewellery and materials • Mossi • Burkina Faso
 

Mossi hairpin

This Mossi hairpin, with finely carved birds finial, was used to chase away the ghostly spirits and disease. This bronze depicts hornbills, birds associated with growth and fertility in many communities.
18th / 19th century.


Origin : Burkina Faso (Kaya area)
Type : Jewellery and materials
Ethnic group : Mossi
Material : Made using the process of lost wax, the bronze (copper alloy) has acquired a really nice patina over the years

2947


Jewellery and materials • Senufo • Ivory Coast
 

Senufo amulet

This small amulet representing a couple was worn by the women and the men, sometimes attached to clothing, to protect itself from the bush spirits.


Origin : Ivory Coast (area bordering the Burkina Faso)
Type : Jewellery and materials
Ethnic group : Senufo
Material : Bronze, encrusted patina, made using the process of lost wax

5343

Senufo pendant

This Senufo pendant represents a couple of chameleons, who are among the first animals of creation in Senufo mythology. This pendant was related to the councils of a soothsayer-healer, it was used to chase away the ghostly spirits and disease.
19th century.


Origin : Ivory Coast
Type : Jewellery and materials
Ethnic group : Senufo
Material : Bronze, encrusted patina, made using the process of lost wax

5347


Jewellery and materials • Tellem • Mali
 

Dogon pendant

Dogon pendants depicting a human figure are extremely rare. This one, whose legs are bent and slightly apart, raises one arm to cover its face, the other lies on the knee. The mouth is half-opened.

This object would be attributed to the Tellem or the Soninke. It could be from the Inland Niger Delta region or the Guimbala, the western Bandiagara cliffs area. The figure's gesture could be referred to gestures of Dogon ritual life, like people hiding their face in their hands at funerals.

This representation is carried out with great care, drawing attention to the distress, through the sensitivity of the features and the sensuality of the forms. This sculpture is undoubtedly one of the most moving in our exhibition.

11th / 15th century.


Origin : Mali (Inland Niger Delta area)
Type : Jewellery and materials
Ethnic group : Tellem / Dogon
Material : Oxidized pewter

2962


Jewellery and materials • Tuareg • Mali
 

Tuareg pendent

This Tuareg pendent is composed of a metal core covered with leather. It was used as a protective talisman.

18th / 19th century.


Origin : Mali (Saharan area)
Type : Jewellery and materials
Ethnic group : Tuareg
Material : Plating of silver, bronze and copper, leather, old-imported beads (Murano), aged patina

2345

Tuareg pendent

This Tuareg pendent is composed of a metal core covered with leather. It was used as a protective talisman.

Probably middle of the 19th century.


Origin : Mali (Saharan area)
Type : Jewellery and materials
Ethnic group : Tuareg
Material : Plating of silver, leather, aged patina

2390


Masks and headdresses • Afikpo • Nigeria
 

Afikpo mask

This mask was in use in the most important male secret society of the Afikpo, and took part in its initiation rituals. Spiritual incarnation of the god egebele, it danced during the annual masked festival called okumkpa or okonkwo.
This mask is exceptional both because of its vigorous execution and its geometrical daring. The upper part would be the evocation of the « yam knife », and the perpendicular lower part of a weapon. The patina demonstrates clearly its great age and its ritual use. The great majority of these masks were destroyed at the end of the 19th century and at the beginning of the 20th century, during colonial conflicts and the conversion of the few remaining villages to Islam.
19th century.

Origin : Collection Yves Develon, Paris, 1993


Origin : Nigeria (Cross River area)
Type : Masks and headdresses
Ethnic group : Afikpo / Igbo (Ibo)
Material : Wood, fine aged patina

2964

Afikpo mask

This mask was in use in the most important male secret society of the Afikpo, and took part in its initiation rituals. Spiritual incarnation of the god egebele, it danced during the annual masked festival called okumkpa or okonkwo, and probably also during funeral rites.
This mask is exceptional both because of its vigorous execution and its geometrical daring. The upper part should be the evocation of the « yam knife », and the perpendicular lower part of a weapon. The patina demonstrates clearly its great age and its ritual use. The great majority of these masks were destroyed at the end of the 19th century and at the beginning of the 20th century, during colonial conflicts and the conversion of the few remaining villages to Islam.
19th century or earlier.


Origin : Nigeria (Cross River area, Uzouwani)
Type : Masks and headdresses
Ethnic group : Afikpo / Igbo (Ibo)
Material : Wood, fine aged patina, natural pigments

4301

Afikpo mask

This mask (called mma ji) was in use in the most important male secret society of the Afikpo, and took part in its initiation rituals. Spiritual incarnation of the god egebele, it performed during the annual masked festival called okumkpa or okonkwo, and probably also for agricultural festivities and funerals ceremonies.
This mask is exceptional both because of its vigorous execution and its geometrical daring. The upper part would be the evocation of the « yam knife ». The patina demonstrates clearly its great age and its ritual use. The great majority of these masks were destroyed at the end of the 19th century and at the beginning of the 20th century, during colonial conflicts and the conversion of the few remaining villages to Islam.
19th century.


Origin : Nigeria (Cross River area)
Type : Masks and headdresses
Ethnic group : Afikpo / Igbo (Ibo)
Material : Wood, fine aged patina, vegetal fibers

5242


Masks and headdresses • Bamana (Bambara) • Mali
 

Bamana Kore mask

This very old mask was used by the kore secret society within the framework of initiation rites, and at the time of the agricultural ceremonies. The shape of the face is oblong, and this mask has been clearly carved in a Bamana style.

This kore mask is rare from a stylistic and iconographic point of view : the row of horns, with a human figure sculpted in the middle (probably faro, goddess of water), is quite common on n'tomo masks (another well-known Bamana association). Nevertheless, it probably represents a hyena, totemic animal of the kore secret society.

Probably middle of the 19th century.


Origin : Mali (Ouelessebougou area)
Type : Masks and headdresses
Ethnic group : Bamana (Bambara)
Material : Fine aged patinated wood

2518

Bamana Kore mask

This very fine and old mask, called kore suruku, was used by the kore society within the framework of initiatory rites, and in agricultural ceremonies. This mask is extremely rare, and belongs to an unusual type characterized by its stylistics' proportions and iconography. It probably represents a hyena, one of the totemic animals of this secret community. The significance of the long ears could be that the komo spirit hears every sound. The incised patterns are probably fertility symbols.
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.
18th / 19th century.


Origin : Mali (Koutiala area)
Type : Masks and headdresses
Ethnic group : Bamana (Bambara)
Material : Fine aged and patinated wood

2977

Bamana Kore mask

This very old Bamana mask (called kore suruku or nama koroni koun) depicts a hyena's head. This mask represents one of the totemic animals of the kore secret association (the sixth secret society of the Bamana). The hyena was admired for its strength and its craftiness. This mask was used during funerals and agrarian initiation rites, to seek the help of the protective spirits.

19th century or earlier.


Origin : Mali (Kolondieba area, Bougouni)
Type : Masks and headdresses
Ethnic group : Bamana (Bambara)
Material : Wood with beautiful deep brown aged patina, native repairs

4325

Bamana mask

This very beautiful mask depicts a buffalo. The monumental treatment of the horns, as well as the harmonious geometric style of the ears on the basis of the muffle, give to this object a quite perfect symmetry. The kore secret society used this mask in the event of bad harvest or during dryness periods. The geometric treatment of this mask, extrapolating the forms to perfection, is a means of sublimating the concept of the animal representation.

Because of its great antiquity, its rarity and its style, this mask is certainly one of the most remarkable sculptures of the Bamana artistic expression.
18th / 19th century.


Origin : Mali (Bougouni area)
Type : Masks and headdresses
Ethnic group : Bamana (Bambara)
Material : Wood, thick aged and sacrificial patina

2084

Bamana N'Golo mask

This anthropo-zoomorphic mask was used during initiatory rites of the kore secret society (the ceremony is called n'golo). This mask served as an intermediary between the ancestors, the world of the dead ones, and the world of the living ones.

Half human and half antelope, with « combed » surface engraved into the wood in order to attract « vibrations » from the audience and to give power to the performer (see attached video). 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.
19th century.


Origin : Mali
Type : Masks and headdresses
Ethnic group : Bamana (Bambara)
Material : Wood, age-old use patina

5133

Bamana N'Tomo mask

This very old mask, probably dated 19th century, was used during n'tomo society initiation rites. The shape of the face is oval, with « tube » eyes and the nose bridge joining the mouth.
This type of n'tomo mask is extremely rare from a stylistic and iconographic point of view.


Origin : Mali (Koutiala area)
Type : Masks and headdresses
Ethnic group : Bamana (Bambara)
Material : Wood, very deep patina

2179

Tyi Wara crest masks

The tyi wara headdress, set on top of the head using a wicker basket, was the attribute of its initiation society whose fundamental principles are to harmonize the community life, the fertility of the cultures and the place of the Man within cosmos. 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.

The tyi wara were worn for ceremonies celebrating agricultural life, and usually, they were dancing in couple. Representing stylized antelopes, male and female, these headdresses are decorated with ridges and chevron-shaped drawings, the horns are finely twisted, and the eyes are inlaid with glass. Symbol of fecundity, the tyi wara express the art to make a ground fertile ; symbol of the mankind origins, they also express the creation of the universe by analogy of the symbols and the myths.
Probably 19th century.

Female size (inches) : 26 x 16 ; male size (inches) : 28. 7 x 17


Origin : Mali (Kayes area)
Type : Masks and headdresses
Ethnic group : Bamana (Bambara)
Material : Wood, aged patina, fabric, cowries, natural pigments, basket work

2297

Tyi Wara headdress

This very beautiful sogoni kun headdress (usually called tyi wara) represents a stylized antelope caring two young ones on her back (three pairs of horns). In use during agrarian festivities of the secret male initiation association tyi wara of the young farmers, this object (decorated with small incised circles) was to favor harvests.

The sogoni kun headdress, set on top of the head using a wicker basket, was the attribute of the male initiation association tyi wara whose fundamental principles are to harmonize the life of the Man, the fertility of the cultures and the place of the Man within cosmos. The body represents the antelope (dega) that first taught people to farm. Symbol of fecundity, the sogoni kun expresses art to make a ground fertile ; symbol of Man's origins, it also expresses the creation of the universe by analogy of the symbols and the myths.
Probably 19th century or earlier.


Origin : Mali (Bougouni area)
Type : Masks and headdresses
Ethnic group : Bamana (Bambara)
Material : Wood, aged brownish patina

2385


Masks and headdresses • Bini • Nigeria
 

Bini mask

This facial mask was used by the ekpo society, essentially during the yam harvest. It represents a chief or a person of high social status. A small bird is carved and added between the horns. The horns probably express fertility.

Probably 19th century.


Origin : Nigeria (Iyekhoriomo area)
Type : Masks and headdresses
Ethnic group : Bini
Material : Dense wood, aged and grayish crusty patina on the head, kaolin, indigo traces around the eyes

5393


Masks and headdresses • Bolon • Burkina Faso
 

Bolon Koufen mask

This mask was used by the secret initiation dwo society (probably a version of the initiations of the Bamana dyow societies, or of the Senufo poro society) in agricultural ceremonies and competitions. This association is arranged in a hierarchical order of initiation, with complex and esoteric levels of knowledge, and internal subdivisions. After a seven-year waiting period before initiation, this association is divided internally into five age grades, the most senior of which can be entered when the process of initiation has been successfully acquired. The first grade culminates in a ritual in which the candidate is symbolically killed, revived the next day and spends the following week in retreat away from the village.

This very ancient mask was initially entirely covered with repoussé metal sheets.
Probably 18th century or earlier.


Origin : Burkina Faso (Western area bordering on Mali)
Type : Masks and headdresses
Ethnic group : Bolon
Material : Very dense brownish wood, micro cracked patina

2939


Masks and headdresses • Dan • Ivory Coast
 

Dan racing mask

This mask, representing an idealized human face, is of Diomande style : the face is oval, eyes are circular and forehead is slightly domed. The mouth is particularly marked, and enhanced with an old material piece. Embodiment of the wild bush spirits, this mask function is to maintain the vital strength within the village and to preserve peace.
This racing mask was worn by young men of the village during competitions organized for them (tankagle), during the dry season, and was taking part in manhood initiatory rites of men's secret societies (ge bon). The patina, as well as the wear of clamp rectangular holes, demonstrates clearly its great age and its ritual use (see picture of the inside carving). This mask, which is very ancient, has a very spectacular expression and a fine pure facture.
18th / 19th century.


Origin : Ivory Coast (Southwestern area, Danané)
Type : Masks and headdresses
Ethnic group : Dan (Diomande)
Material : Very aged and patinated wood, material

2914


Masks and headdresses • Dogon • Mali
 

Dogon antelope mask

This very old antelope mask (called ka or karanda) was used during commemorative ceremonies of dama. It was accompanied by hundreds of other masked dancers, thus forming an abstract representation of the environment of the Dogon people. The antelope mask is admired by Dogon for its beauty and the strength of its performances. The origin of dama ceremony has close links with the worship of the ancestors (and death), as well as with the balance of the Universe. At the mythical time, masks were first acquired and used to counteract the negative effects of death. By reenacting the behavior of their mythic ancestors, as on this lock, the Dogon strive to restore order to their world after the disruption caused by death.

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.
19th century or earlier.


Origin : Mali (Yougo Piri area)
Type : Masks and headdresses
Ethnic group : Dogon
Material : Wood, original pigments, age-old patina from use

4349

Kanaga mask

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.


Origin : Mali (Tireli area, Bandiagara cliffs)
Type : Masks and headdresses
Ethnic group : Dogon
Material : Wood, natural pigments, resin and vegetal fibers, fine aged patina

2318

Kanaga mask

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.


Origin : Mali
Type : Masks and headdresses
Ethnic group : Dogon
Material : Very age-old patina from use, original pigments, indigenous repairs

2327

Kanaga mask

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.

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 (every five years), 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.
19th century or earlier.


Origin : Mali (Yougo Na area, Bandiagara cliffs)
Type : Masks and headdresses
Ethnic group : Dogon
Material : Wood, natural pigments, resin, very fine aged patina

4308


Masks and headdresses • Kran • Ivory Coast
 

Mask of justice

The Kran and Guere (Wè) are located in the south-western area of the Ivory Coast and in the southern Liberia, and both belong to the Krou group.
This mask, whose jaw is articulated, was used as dispenser of justice and protected the village from the bush spirits. It also made it possible to be paid of debts, and to take care on the mothers and their children.


Origin : Ivory Coast (Cavally area, bordering on southern Liberia)
Type : Masks and headdresses
Ethnic group : Kran (Guere (Wè), Krou group)
Material : Aged and patinated wood, vegetable fibers, material

2972


Masks and headdresses • Kulango • Ivory Coast
 

Koulango mask

This mask, exceptional and very rare, represents a deceased soul, and was worn by the men of the secret society kiemvé during funerary rituals of its members. 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.
The headdress depicts a hornbill (yangaleya), a sacred bird associated with growth and fertility in many communities, and also with the protection of the deceased souls. This representation is carried out with great care, drawing attention to the details, through the sensitivity and the sensuality of the forms. This moving mask can be considered as one of the rare masterpieces of the Koulango art.
Probably 19th century or earlier.


Origin : Ivory Coast (Bondoukou area)
Type : Masks and headdresses
Ethnic group : Kulango (or Ligbi)
Material : Patinated wood from age-old use, ancient kaolin traces around the eyes

2975


Masks and headdresses • Kurumba • Burkina Faso
 

Kurumba antelope mask

Made in one piece, this antelope mask is carried out with great care, drawing attention to the details and volumes. Remarkable for the length of its horns, this mask was admired by the Kurumba for its beauty and the strength of its performance during agricultural festivities, at the beginning and the end of the rainy season. As for the Dogon, it would have been used also for funeral ceremonies to transport the souls of deceased family members away from the village.

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.
End of the 19th / early 20th century.


Origin : Burkina Faso (Djibo area, northern Burkina Faso bordering on Mali)
Type : Masks and headdresses
Ethnic group : Kurumba
Material : Bright brownish eroded wood, age-old use patina, native repairs and pigments

4313


Masks and headdresses • Malinke • Mali
 

Malinke N'Tomo mask

This mask, of an unusual type, is attributable to Malinke, neighbors of Bamana and which adopted the n'tomo society initiation rites. Multi-horned headpieces are specific to the n'tomo associations, but one of the particularities of this mask is that the horns are fitted into a large oval.

Used within the framework of initiatory rituals, and in agricultural ceremonies, it enclosed the spiritual and protective strength of the lineage. 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.

This mask is exceptional both because of its vigorous and compact execution and its perfect symmetry.
Probably 19th century.


Origin : Mali (Kayes area)
Type : Masks and headdresses
Ethnic group : Malinke
Material : Fine aged patinated wood

2549


Masks and headdresses • Nuna • Burkina Faso
 

Nuna hyena mask

This mask represents a hyena, wild and totemic animal in the Nuna society. Worn over the face, this mask is sculpted with geometric patterns, and lines radiate from the eyes. The shape of the mask and its geometrical patterns constitute the elements of a system of communication. Each element has a meaning which may change from one group to another, and also within a village. On the exoteric level of the uninitiated, they represent the spirits of the bush (su) who act as intermediaries between the ancestors and mankind. At a most esoteric level, the mask and its symbols are reminders of a social, political and religious order of the community.
This very old mask was used to provide for the fertility, health and prosperity of its owner and community. It dances to drive evil forces away, and participates in funerals and initiations ceremonies. Its great age suggests that it was also used as a sacrificial altar to su.


Origin : Burkina Faso (Area located between the Red Volta and the Black Volta River)
Type : Masks and headdresses
Ethnic group : Nuna / Gurunsi
Material : Fine aged brownish wood, granular and micro cracked patina

2944


Masks and headdresses • Pende • D. R. Congo
 

Eastern Pende mask

Among the range of Pende masks the human and animal are often linked, and in the West Kasai one particular type seems to share a masquerading and an architectural function. The lateral elongation of the panya ngombe mask relates to the buffalo which itself has chiefly associations.

The Pende live in the southwestern part of Zaire. They are mainly farmers, producing millet, maize, plantain and peanuts. The women do most of the farm work and all of the selling of goods in community markets. Men help clear fields and occasionally hunt and fish for additional food. The Pende people are matrilineal, with the eldest maternal uncle recognized as the head of the family with responsibility for the well-being of the family and taking care of the ancestors. The Pende carve several types of masks, mostly associated with education and initiation rituals. The masks embody ancestral forces and serve as intermediaries with the spirit world. Masks of the eastern Pende are typically painted red, black and white and decorated with rows of small, incised painted triangles. They are flat and characterized by exaggerated width and large projecting ears.

Late 19th / early 20th century.

Origin : Purchased from Paul Rutten, Amsterdam


Origin : D. R. Congo
Type : Masks and headdresses
Ethnic group : Pende (Eastern)
Material : Wood, fine aged patina, oily in places, pigments

5377

Eastern Pende mask

The Pende live in the southwestern part of Zaire. They are mainly farmers, producing millet, maize, plantain and peanuts. The women do most of the farm work and all of the selling of goods in community markets. Men help clear fields and occasionally hunt and fish for additional food. The Pende people are matrilineal, with the eldest maternal uncle recognized as the head of the family with responsibility for the well-being of the family and taking care of the ancestors. The Pende carve several types of masks (human and animal forms are often linked), mostly associated with education and initiation rituals. The masks embody ancestral forces and serve as intermediaries with the spirit world.

19th century.

Origin :
Purchased from a private collection, Amsterdam
Collection Alex Arthur, Brussels


Origin : D. R. Congo
Type : Masks and headdresses
Ethnic group : Pende (Eastern)
Material : Wood, fine aged patina, natural pigments

5417


Masks and headdresses • Senufo • Ivory Coast
 

Senufo Wanyugo mask

Wanyugo masks are used, during elaborate funerals, to usher the deceased soul into the realm of the spirits. This mask is worn to control dangerous spiritual forces and witchcraft which might threaten the village. Originating in the « sacred wood », sanctuary of the ancestors and spirits of the bush, this mask was worn by an initiate of the poro secret society. This very powerful association, about which the dignitaries speak a secret language, plays an essential role in the community life. The mask draws its strength from its iconographic associations : the strength of the buffalo, the wisdom of the hornbill, the aggressiveness of the wart hog, and the power of the crocodile's mouth.
This mask is exceptional both because of its vigorous execution and its small size. The patina demonstrates clearly its great age and its ritual use (see attached video).

Origin : Collection Yves Develon, Paris, 1991


Origin : Ivory Coast
Type : Masks and headdresses
Ethnic group : Senufo
Material : Wood, crusty and very old sacrificial patina, material pieces

2965


Masks and headdresses • Teke • D. R. Congo
 

Teke mask

As facial masks used during the kidumu dances of the Tsaayi, this object presents a form and patterns interpreted like lunar symbols. However, and contrary to the rare other specimens, this mask was not intended to perform attached to the face. Constituted of two round parts joined together by a kind of handle allowing a suspended fixing, this mask was probably a house mask. It could have been also used like chest masks, but the patina present on the backside does not reveal traces of friction, but a thick smoked and crusty patina. The front face is composed of a thick and encrusted sacrificial patina.

Probably 19th century.

Lit : « Masques Africains de la collection Barbier-Mueller », 1997, 2000, Adam Biro, Paris, p. 190.


Origin : D. R. Congo (Ogooue River area)
Type : Masks and headdresses
Ethnic group : Teke (or Tsaayi)
Material : Very dense wood, age-old use sacrificial patina on the front side, black eroded on the back side

5316


Masks and headdresses • Yaka • D. R. Congo
 

Yaka initiation mask

The most important event in the Yaka ceremonial cycle is the initiation of young boys into adulthood. To mark the end of the educational period, festivities are held in which the initiates perform with newly carved masks. Additionally, it showcases the most startling masks and the most spectacular dances.
Initiation mukhanda, that includes circumcision, is a crucial part of Yaka life. Circumcision and initiation, mandatory for all young men, are organized in a remote place called mukhanda-mu-msitu. The rituals are organized by the main secret societies : ngoni and yiwilla.
This mask, called mwelo, was carved for initiation. The carver (muumbwa) repairs and carves new masks for circumcisions who are danced in pairs or groups, except the mask worn by the tutor's leader who dances alone. Masked dancer first asks permission and begs gifts wherever the initiates travel to perform. The ritual expert and his aide, the senior tutor, the sculptor, and the initiates wear different masks. The most common masks (kholuka) are used by initiates and vary greatly. A tutor wears a zoomorphic mask named mpakasa, as this one. During its performance, the mask was held by a handle hidden behind the raffia cloth.
19th or early 20th century.


Origin : D. R. Congo (Kwango river, southwestern Zaire)
Type : Masks and headdresses
Ethnic group : Yaka
Material : Wood, canvas, raffia, coated cloth, natural pigments, age-old use patina

4357


Ritual items • Adja • Togo
 

Vodun altar

This altar is composed of a pot containing anthropomorphic figures and a bell. The bell is to summon benign spirits, and to summon evil powers. The pot contains materials intended to be used to « feed » the gods with offerings. There is also a kind of skull with cowries and an old padlock (used and placed here to seal the initiation).
This object was used in the mami wata cult to protect followers leaving the place of initiation. Lali is the vodun invoked for this, or gu (the god of iron and war).


Origin : Togo (Area bordering on Benin)
Type : Ritual items
Ethnic group : Adja / Fon
Material : Pot, wood, iron, old padlock, cowries, sacrificial patina and vegetal materials

2389


Ritual items • Dogon • Mali
 

Dogon altar

This small altar, made into a terracotta bowl, consists of a wooden statuette (probably an ancestor's representation), an iron neckrest from the Tellem people, an iron bracelet, and various metal elements, arrowheads (see attached video).

Probably 15th / 17th century.


Origin : Mali (Bandiagara cliffs)
Type : Ritual items
Ethnic group : Dogon
Material : Terracotta bowl, wood figure, metal pieces, sacrificial materials

5327

Dogon altar figure

This object was probably placed on a family altar to serve as physical medium through which the deceased ancestors' soul (vageu) was expressed. It was also the physical support for their vital strength (nyama).

This piece, remarkably stylized and very ancient (17th / 18th century), symbolizes the primordial couple as well as the nommo ancestors of the mankind.


Origin : Mali (Songo village, Guimbala area)
Type : Ritual items
Ethnic group : Dogon
Material : Eroded wood with fine sacrificial patina

2208

Dogon votive ladder

Symbolizing the utility ladder, in a miniature round image, this votive one was used on family altars intended for ancestors' cult. It symbolizes the steps that they have to climb to reach the deceased world. In the same way as ancestor statuettes and others ritual items, it was destinated for the repose of the dead ancestors' souls.

16th / 18th century.


Origin : Mali (Kani Kombole, Bandiagara cliffs area)
Type : Ritual items
Ethnic group : Dogon
Material : Bright brownish wood with cracked patina

2919

Dogon votive ladder

Miniature image of utility ladder, this votive one was used on family altars intended for ancestors' cult. It symbolizes the steps that they have to climb to reach the deceased world. In the same way as ancestor statuettes and others ritual items, it was destinated for the repose of the dead ancestors' souls.
18th century or earlier.


Origin : Mali (Bandiagara cliffs area)
Type : Ritual items
Ethnic group : Dogon
Material : Wood, thick crusty patina

5298

Thief's staff Yo Domolo

Held in the hand or worn over the shoulder, this curved staff is the emblem of the society of yona (« ritual thieves », younw). The principal activity of the society seems to occur at the funeral of one of its members, stealing domestic animals to be sacrificed and eaten at the funeral ceremony. Each Dogon clan has a ritual thief. This staff is called yo domolo (« thief's staff »), and has a hook-shaped form similar to weapons and tools sometimes used as ritual objects in binu altars.
This thief's staff is decorated with zigzag symbolizing the rain (the mythical ancestor lebe), and the shorter resembles the head of a horse like animal with pointed ears. It should be interpreted as a symbol of the horse that pulled nommo celestial ark to water after its fall to earth, or also as the mythical blacksmith stealing embers of the sun in order to create fire.
19th century or earlier.


Origin : Mali (Bandiagara cliffs, village of Yougo Na)
Type : Ritual items
Ethnic group : Dogon
Material : Fine aged patinated wood with brownish and partly crusted patina

4236


Ritual items • Edo • Nigeria
 

Ikegobo altar

This ikegobo altar was used by the Edo during rituals linked with the ikenga cult. Ikenga is the embodiment of traditional male leadership and power. The shrine expressed their personal spirit or chi, a source of strength and courage. Ikenga visualizes the authority of leadership : the ability to sit in judgment and be a warrior-chief. An ikenga typically received offerings as farm produce (sacrifices for the yam deity, ifejioku), prayers to the physical power (the power of the right hand and arm, the obo, and the right hand cult, aka nri, literally « hand of the food »), and stands for personal determination (ivri) in warrior secret society.
Such altar is protected from the profane world of the outside, the village, in the family sanctuary and shrines within. It could be seen as a « shrine within a shrine », symbolizing the okpossi (representing one's personal spirit or chi) in addition to the ikenga cult.
Probably 17th / 18th century.


Origin : Nigeria (Northern area of the Niger Delta)
Type : Ritual items
Ethnic group : Edo
Material : Wood, sacrificial materials

4242


Ritual items • Tellem • Mali
 

Tellem neckrest

Neckrests are among the oldest surviving wooden objects in West Africa. Found in burial caves in the Bandiagara cliffs, high above Dogon villages, neckrests are attributed to the Tellem people who preceded the Dogon in the cliff. The Tellem did not live in caves, but they used some for funerary rituals and burials, and others in which they built mud-brick granaries for millet storage.
Burial caves contained many objects that were offered as gifts for the deceased : bowls, potteries, necklaces, bracelets, rings, and iron staffs. Neckrests may have been objects of high status, because only a few caves contained them. Curved rest, vertical support with a projection from the central post, and a rectangular base, such as this, is a very rare and unusual form (probably reserved for male burials).
11th-14th century.


Origin : Mali (Bandiagara cliffs)
Type : Ritual items
Ethnic group : Tellem / Dogon
Material : Bright-brownish eroded wood

2539

Tellem neckrest

Neckrests are among the oldest surviving wooden objects in West Africa. Found in burial caves in the Bandiagara cliffs, high above Dogon villages, neckrests are attributed to the Tellem people who preceded the Dogon in the cliff. The Tellem did not live in caves, but they used some for funerary rituals and burials, and others in which they built mud-brick granaries for millet storage (see picture).
Burial caves contained many objects that were offered as gifts for the dead : bowls, potteries, necklaces, bracelets, rings, and iron staffs. Neckrests may have been objects of high status, because only a few caves contained them. Curved rest, convex vertical supports, and a rectangular base, such as this, are a very rare and unusual form.
11th / 14th century.


Origin : Mali (Ireli area, Bandiagara cliffs)
Type : Ritual items
Ethnic group : Tellem / Dogon
Material : Brownish eroded wood, exceptional aged patina

2928

Tellem neckrest

Neckrests are among the oldest surviving wooden objects in West Africa. Found in burial caves in the Bandiagara cliffs (see pictures), high above Dogon villages, neckrests are attributed to the Tellem people who preceded the Dogon in the cliff. The Tellem did not live in caves, but they used some for funerary rituals and burials, and others in which they built mud-brick granaries for millet storage.

Burial caves contained many objects that were offered to the deceased : bowls, potteries, necklaces, bracelets, rings, and iron staffs. Neckrests may have been objects of high status, because only a few caves contained them. Curved rest, vertical support with a projection from the central post, and a rectangular base, such as this, is a very rare and unusual form (probably reserved for male burials).
11th / 14th century.


Origin : Mali (Bandiagara cliffs, Teli)
Type : Ritual items
Ethnic group : Tellem / Dogon
Material : Dark-brown eroded wood

4336


Ritual items • Yaka • D. R. Congo
 

Yaka drum

This small drum is called mukoku ngoombu by the Yaka. It was used with a cord around the neck at the end of which was suspended a wood stick. One played of this instrument during a divination ritual called ngoombu weefwa. The instrument announces the presence of the diviner, the nganga, giving the rhythm, but is also used as container to prepare medicines. Posed on the ground, it is also used as stool by the diviner. The face would personify the link with the ancestors' spirits. The closed eyes refer to the interior vision and the dreams of the diviner.

Combining hieratic qualities and symmetry, this mukoku drum can be considered as one of the masterpieces of the Yaka art.

Probably 19th century or earlier.

Origin : Collection Michel Koenig, Brussels


Origin : D. R. Congo (Kwango River, bordering Angola)
Type : Ritual items
Ethnic group : Yaka
Material : Wood, aged bright-brownish patina, brass nail

5391


Statuary • Bamana (Bambara) • Mali
 

Bamana Do Nyeleni figure

This Bamana figure was used in the fertility rituals of the dyow societies, and its role was to ensure the vital force within the village. For this reason, it played a significant role at the initiation ceremonies of the young adults (dyo initiates) : transmission of the social and moral rules of conduct, perpetuation of the religious practices and of the ancestors' cult (faro, goddess of water).
Used by the secret associations called dyow and gwan (arranged in a hierarchical order of initiations, with complex and esoteric levels of knowledge), this statue may serve to express the institution of marriage, but also help to make the blacksmith performances the most successful in divination and healing rituals.

The bust, chiseled on a single plan above the abdomen set off the bulky breasts. The schematic volumes reduce the plastic to what is here considered as the essential and underline elements linked to womanliness and fertility. These two notions are fundamental in the tradition and the representation of the dyo nyeleni statues.

18th / 19th century.


Origin : Mali (Bougouni area)
Type : Statuary
Ethnic group : Bamana (Bambara)
Material : Wood, brownish red aged patina

2495

Bamana Do Nyeleni figure

This Bamana figure was used in the fertility rituals of the dyow societies, and its role was to ensure the vital force within the village. For this reason, it played a significant role at the initiation ceremonies of the young adults (dyo initiates) : transmission of the social and moral rules of conduct, perpetuation of the religious practices and of the ancestors' cult (faro, goddess of water). This statuette is the guardian of the community knowledge.

The face is treated with sweetness and concern of the detail, and harmonious proportions. The patina is the result of the particular care which is taken to this piece. To be purified, and thus to intervene with effectiveness, this statuette was to be regularly washed.

Probably early 19th century.


Origin : Mali
Type : Statuary
Ethnic group : Bamana (Bambara)
Material : Bright brownish wood, fine aged and eroded patina

5310

Bamana seated figure

This Bamana seated figure was used in the fertility rituals to ensure the vital force within the village. For this reason, it played a significant role at the initiation ceremonies of the young adults (dyo initiates) : transmission of the social and moral rules of conduct, perpetuation of the religious practices and of the ancestors' cult (faro, goddess of water).
Used by the secret associations called dyow and gwan (arranged in a hierarchical order of initiations, with complex and esoteric levels of knowledge), this statue may serve to express the institution of marriage, but also help to make the blacksmith performances the most successful in divination and healing rituals. Large figures as this one are cared for by senior members of the associations, and are displayed during their annual celebrations. They are washed to remove extraneous matter, re-oiled and adorned with clothing, additional adornments, such as the nose ring on this example, enhance the figure's beauty and allure. Then sacrifices are made on the entrance to the house where they are kept.

The schematic volumes reduce the plastic to what is here considered as the essential and underline elements linked to womanliness and fertility. These two notions are fundamental in the tradition and the representation of the Bamana sculptures.

18th / 19th century.

Provenance :
Purchased from a private collection, Los Angeles
Private collection, Paris


Origin : Mali (Bougouni area)
Type : Statuary
Ethnic group : Bamana (Bambara)
Material : Wood, metal and cloth, thick encrusted aged patina

5167


Statuary • Baoule • Ivory Coast
 

Baule figure

Among the Baule, figural sculptures represent either nature spirits (asie usu) or « other-world » mates, the ancestor figures (blolo bian, male figures, or blolo bla, the female ones).
Nature spirits may possess humans or cause disturbances in their lives. People afflicted with such problems commission a sculpture to appease the spirits. An « other-world » mate is an individual's counterpart that inhabits another realm. When this mate is upset, perhaps jealous, a sculpture version is created, placed in its owner's personal shrine and is lovingly cared for and handled. Figures used by diviners are usually handled with care and often a figure is displayed near the diviner during a public performance. When they function to localize a troublesome spirit, these figures may receive libations and thus develop an encrusted surface.
Both nature spirits and « other-word » spelling mates require their material manifestation to be in the form of an attractive human being. Thus, the aesthetics of such sculptures reflect Baule canons of beauty. The finely detailed head, upright torso, hands clasping the belly, and bent legs are formal elements characteristic of Baule figural sculpture.


Origin : Ivory Coast
Type : Statuary
Ethnic group : Baoule
Material : Wood, thick and aged encrusted sacrificial patina

5365

Baule male figure

Among the Baule, figural sculptures represent either nature spirits (asie usu) or « other-world » mates, the ancestor figures (blolo bian, male figures, or blolo bla, the female ones).
Nature spirits may possess humans or cause disturbances in their lives. People afflicted with such problems commission a sculpture to appease the spirits. An « other-world » mate is an individual's counterpart that inhabits another realm. When this mate is upset, perhaps jealous, a sculpture version is created, placed in its owner's personal shrine and is lovingly cared for and handled. Figures used by diviners are usually handled with care and often a figure is displayed near the diviner during a public performance. When they function to localize a troublesome spirit, these figures may receive libations and thus develop an encrusted surface.
Both nature spirits and « other-word » spelling mates require their material manifestation to be in the form of an attractive human being. Thus, the aesthetics of such sculptures reflect Baule canons of beauty. The finely detailed head, upright torso, hands clasping the belly, and bent legs are formal elements characteristic of Baule figural sculpture.

Origin : Yves Develon, Paris


Origin : Ivory Coast
Type : Statuary
Ethnic group : Baoule
Material : Fine aged patinated wood with dark glossy and partly crusted patina, cloth

5069

blolo bian Baule figure

Among the Baule, figural sculptures represent either nature spirits (asie usu) or « other-world » mates, the ancestor figures (blolo bian, male figures, or blolo bla, the female ones).
Nature spirits may possess humans or cause disturbances in their lives. People afflicted with such problems commission a sculpture to appease the spirits. An « other-world » mate is an individual's counterpart that inhabits another realm. When this mate is upset, perhaps jealous, a sculpture version is created, placed in its owner's personal shrine and is lovingly cared for and handled. Figures used by diviners are usually handled with care and often a figure is displayed near the diviner during a public performance. When they function to localize a troublesome spirit, these figures may receive libations and thus develop an encrusted surface.
Both nature spirits and « other-word » spelling mates require their material manifestation to be in the form of an attractive human being. Thus, the aesthetics of such sculptures reflect Baule canons of beauty. The finely detailed head, upright torso, hands clasping the belly, and bent legs are formal elements characteristic of Baule figural sculpture.


Origin : Ivory Coast
Type : Statuary
Ethnic group : Baoule
Material : Fine aged patinated wood, with brownish encrusted sacrificial patina

5360


Statuary • Bobo (Bobo Fing) • Burkina Faso
 

Bobo blacksmith fetish

This statuette is a forge guardian, a mythical being, whose only blacksmith holds the secrecy. It emanates from it an impressive power, primarily due to the posture of the figure and its scrutinizing glance (see attached video).
Probably first part of the 20th century.


Origin : Burkina Faso (Area bordering Mali)
Type : Statuary
Ethnic group : Bobo (Bobo Fing)
Material : Iron structure covered with a thick earthy material, hair, cloth, kauris, sacrificial patina

5352

Bobo blacksmith fetish

This statuette is a forge guardian, a mythical being, whose only blacksmith holds the secrecy. It emanates from it an impressive power, primarily due to the posture of the figure and its scrutinizing glance.

19th / 20th century.

Origin : Private collection, Madrid


Origin : Burkina Faso (Area bordering Mali)
Type : Statuary
Ethnic group : Bobo (Bobo Fing)
Material : Iron structure covered with a thick earthy sacrificial patina, cloth

5370


Statuary • Boki • Nigeria
 

Boki ancestor figure

This statuette, which has been largely obliterated by use patina and erosion, presents a face with protruding eyes surmounted by an openwork rectangular headdress. Scarifications are carved on the temples. It could represent a female figure, a protective ancestor, in very stylized geometrical forms. Entirely covered with white coats, probably made of kaolin, it was placed in a sanctuary dedicated to the spirit of nature anjenu. This statuette anjenu appears in the worships of fertility, reinforces the religious power of the sanctuary, and could also be used in divination rituals. It was then a receptacle facilitating the communication with the ancestors and the water spirits.

18th century or earlier.


Origin : Nigeria (Area located between the Cross River and the Benue River)
Type : Statuary
Ethnic group : Boki (or Idoma / Egede)
Material : Wood, sacrificial materials, age-old use patina and erosion

4239


Statuary • Bwa • Mali
 

Bwa couple figure

This very rare couple is coming from a grouping of three Bwa villages located in the area of San (area bordering on the Burkina Faso). The original stylistic treatment indicates a very strong cultural identity, probably because of the proximity and of a majority presence of Bamana in this area of Mali.

This couple represents mythological characters (primordial ancestors half-human, half-animal), with elongated faces, and sited on stools. The bodies are decorated with engravings which symbolize scarifications. These pieces are of a very great antiquity.

Height : 9. 2 inches and 8. 4 inches


Origin : Mali (San area)
Type : Statuary
Ethnic group : Bwa
Material : Bright-brownish wood, fine aged patina

2382


Statuary • Chamba • Nigeria
 

Chamba figure

The Chamba figures are rare, and generally of a very crude style without any relief. The originality of this piece lies in its movement, the face (with its characteristic crest) and the shoulders projected ahead, while preserving a pure and geometric style.

This object was dedicated to the ancestors' cult and to the « first mother » altar, and was used for divination and healing rites (therapeutic uses).
18th / 19th century or earlier.

Origin : Collection Yves Develon, Paris, 1993


Origin : Nigeria (Southeastern area of the Benue River)
Type : Statuary
Ethnic group : Chamba
Material : Very thick wood with an old sacrificial patina

2126


Statuary • Dogon • Mali
 

Dogon ancestor figure

This statue represents a male standing figure. Arms are missing, but were brought back on the navel and formed a kind of plate. One notices the pride of the head with ears U-shaped, the long and fine body, and the very ancient break of the arm leaving no doubt as for the great antiquity of this exceptional piece.

Sculpted in traditional forms and proportions, this figure was undoubtedly dedicated to the ancestors' cult. A rather rare element supplements the aesthetic balance of this object : a very old iron chain provided with shells. This is the chain of a binu priest (the hogon), in charge of religious rituals. The shells may symbolize the bones of the lebe snake, the primordial ancestor whose cult is concerned with fertility and regeneration of the earth.
17th / 19th century.


Origin : Mali (Tireli area, Bandiagara cliffs)
Type : Statuary
Ethnic group : Dogon
Material : Densely eroded wood with gray tonality, iron and shells

2321

Dogon ancestor figure

This very beautiful female figure is a perfect example of the Dogon statuary (Seno style). The schematic volumes reducing the plastic to what is here considered as essential, underlines elements linked to womanliness and fertility. The breasts, very accentuated, leave shoulders to preserve the elongated form of this object. Metal rings are attached to the ears.

Sculpted in traditional forms and proportions, this figure was undoubtedly dedicated to the ancestors' cult (narin).
19th century.


Origin : Mali (Seno plain area)
Type : Statuary
Ethnic group : Dogon
Material : Brownish patinated wood, aged sacrificial patina, metal rings

2331

Dogon ancestors figures

These small figurines, probably a couple of ancestors, are represented hands clasped in front of the lower abdomen. The human form is reduced to its essential significance. The rounded faces, the cubist processing and the shaped legs are in a specific style of Dogon located in the Bandiagara cliffs villages. The surface patina is composed of a thick encrustation of sacrificial material.

These statuettes were probably used on the ancestors' altar or in the binu sanctuary. This couple was acting as support of the vital force called nyama. It comes from the deserted old village of Tireli (see picture).
Probably 14th / 16th century.

8. 11 inches and 5. 7 inches


Origin : Mali (Tireli village)
Type : Statuary
Ethnic group : Dogon
Material : Crusty patinated wood

2980

Dogon ancestors figures

These very ancient figures depict a couple of ancestors. The blunted faces, as well as the elongated busts without legs, reinforce their fragile appearance. They were placed on the ancestors' altar (vageu), to preserve and release the vital force of the deceased (nyama).
The surface patina is composed of accumulated layers of additive materials, suggesting these objects are of a certain age and have been used in sacrifices.
19th century or earlier.

Dimensions : 16 and 14. 95 inches.


Origin : Mali
Type : Statuary
Ethnic group : Dogon
Material : Wood, very encrusted grayish sacrificial patina

5168

Dogon figure

This statuette depicts a figure whose chest and belly are projected forwards. The very « cubist » style and the hands brought back on the knees are characteristic of the style of the Dogon of the Seno plain. This piece probably represents a protective spirit (dege).
19th century or earlier.


Origin : Mali (Madougou area)
Type : Statuary
Ethnic group : Dogon
Material : Exquisite deep brown sweating patina

2287

Dogon figure

This figure undoubtedly depicts a nommo, with hands on both sides of the front and one arm raised. The carver has taken many liberties with the anatomy to use this abstract gesture to create a balance of the forms to represent this figure with a raised arm. This small Dogon sculpture is therefore ambiguous and complex. The gesture of raised arms represents various aspects of nommo role in the organization of the universe and its relationship with the amma god, and also in Dogon rituals of fertility (the spiritual being nommo is present in water and rain).

This figure is covered with a fine-grained black patina suggestive of the materials that are used for making sacrifices on personal altars or in the binu sanctuary.

18th / 19th century.


Origin : Mali (Bandiagara cliffs area, Teli village)
Type : Statuary
Ethnic group : Dogon
Material : Eroded wood with sacrificial materials

2462

Dogon figure

This anthropomorphic statuette, probably an ancestor or a nommo figure, is represented with hands clasped in front of the lower abdomen, and with a cylindrical treatment of the body. The human form is reduced to its essential significance. The rounded face, the cubist processing and the shaped legs are in a specific style of Dogon located in the Bandiagara cliffs villages. The surface patina is composed of a thick encrustation of sacrificial material.

This sculpture was probably used on the ancestors' altar or in the binu sanctuary. It was acting as support of the vital force called nyama. It comes from the deserted old village of Ireli (see attached pictures).

Probably 16th / 18th century.


Origin : Mali (Collected from Ireli, Bandiagara cliffs)
Type : Statuary
Ethnic group : Dogon
Material : Wood, encrustation

2492

Dogon figure

The cubist character of this statue makes it possible to attribute this very old figure to the Dogon style of the Seno plain, area bordering on Burkina Faso. This standing male figure (probably a protective ancestor), with very structured forms, alternating round, angular, tubular and conical volumes, give the work a strong geometrical force.

The oozing patina is due to a constant and aged shea butter and palm oil impregnation. Native and ancient repair of the right arm.

18th / 19th century.


Origin : Mali (Seno plain area)
Type : Statuary
Ethnic group : Dogon
Material : Dark-patinated wood, partially oozing

2493

Dogon figure

This statuette depicts a figure with sharply angled legs, and whose arms are bent at the elbows and at the wrists to create a step like form. The breasts are placed high on the torso and continue the mass of the shoulders. This stylization of the human body can be seen in many Dogon sculptures. The almost featureless face conforms to the simplification of forms that characterizes these sculptures. This piece probably represents a protective spirit (dege) or a nommo ancestor.
Sacrificial materials are poured on figure sculptures and other ritual objects found on personal altars, ancestral altars, in binu sanctuaries, and on altars dedicated to nommo. Many different substances are used for sacrifice, including the blood of chickens, sheep, and goats slaughtered for this purpose, mixtures of various plant juices with millet flour or flour made from the fruit and seeds of the baobab, concoctions of burned herbs, and shea oil. These sacrificial materials are vehicles for nyama, the vital force that determines a person's mental and physical well-being and allows a person to continue living. Nyama is found in all living things, including animals and plants, and in supernatural beings as well. It can be liberated from its support and transmitted to another being. When a sacrifice is made, the nyama of the sacrificial material strengthens and increases not only the nyama of the spiritual being to whom the sacrifice is offered but also that of the persons who perform the sacrifice.
16th / 17th century.


Origin : Mali (Bandiagara cliffs area, village of Ireli)
Type : Statuary
Ethnic group : Dogon
Material : Wood, iron necklace, sacrificial materials

4244

Dogon figure

This statuette depicts a figure with truncated legs, and whose arms are bent at the elbows and at the wrists to create a step like form. The breasts are placed high on the torso and continue the mass of the shoulders. This stylization of the human body can be seen in many Dogon sculptures. The almost featureless face conforms to the simplification of forms that characterizes these sculptures. This piece probably represents a protective spirit (dege) or a nommo ancestor.
Sacrificial materials are poured on figure sculptures and other ritual objects found on personal altars, ancestral altars, in binu sanctuaries, and on altars dedicated to nommo. Many different substances are used for sacrifice, including the blood of chickens, sheep, and goats slaughtered for this purpose, mixtures of various plant juices with millet flour or flour made from the fruit and seeds of the baobab, concoctions of burned herbs, and shea oil. These sacrificial materials are vehicles for nyama, the vital force that determines a person's mental and physical well-being and allows a person to continue living. Nyama is found in all living things, including animals and plants, and in supernatural beings as well. It can be liberated from its support and transmitted to another being. When a sacrifice is made, the nyama of the sacrificial material strengthens and increases not only the nyama of the spiritual being to whom the sacrifice is offered but also that of the persons who perform the sacrifice.
16th / 17th century.


Origin : Mali (Bandiagara cliffs area)
Type : Statuary
Ethnic group : Dogon
Material : Wood, sacrificial materials atop the head, eroded patina

5322

Dogon figure with bowl

This female figure is represented with a bowl atop the head. The breasts are placed high on the torsos and continue the mass of the shoulders. This stylization of the human body can be seen in many Dogon sculptures. The thick aged patina of this object demonstrates clearly its great age and its ritual use by many generations.

Sacrificial materials are poured on figure sculptures and other ritual objects found on personal altars. Many different substances are used for sacrifice, including the blood of chickens, sheep, and goats slaughtered for this purpose, mixtures of various plant juices with millet flour or flour made from the fruit and seeds of the baobab, concoctions of burned herbs, and shea oil. These sacrificial materials are vehicles for nyama, the vital force. Nyama is found in all living things, including animals and plants, and in supernatural beings as well. It can be liberated from its support and transmitted to another being. When a sacrifice is made, the nyama of the sacrificial material strengthens and increases not only the nyama of the spiritual being to whom the sacrifice is offered but also that of the persons who perform the sacrifice.
18th / 19th century.


Origin : Mali (Yougo Dogorou area)
Type : Statuary
Ethnic group : Dogon
Material : Eroded wood, traces of thick encrusted sacrificial materials

5338

Dogon figures

These statuettes depict a couple of figures with truncated legs, and whose arms are bent at the elbows and at the wrists to create a step like form. The breasts are placed high on the torsos and continue the mass of the shoulders. This stylization of the human body can be seen in many Dogon sculptures (see attached video). The almost featureless faces conform to the simplification of forms that characterizes these sculptures. These pieces probably represent nommo ancestors.
Sacrificial materials are poured on figure sculptures and other ritual objects found on personal altars, ancestral altars, in binu sanctuaries, and on altars dedicated to nommo. Many different substances are used for sacrifice, including the blood of chickens, sheep, and goats slaughtered for this purpose, mixtures of various plant juices with millet flour or flour made from the fruit and seeds of the baobab, concoctions of burned herbs, and shea oil. These sacrificial materials are vehicles for nyama, the vital force that determines a person's mental and physical well-being and allows a person to continue living. Nyama is found in all living things, including animals and plants, and in supernatural beings as well. It can be liberated from its support and transmitted to another being. When a sacrifice is made, the nyama of the sacrificial material strengthens and increases not only the nyama of the spiritual being to whom the sacrifice is offered but also that of the persons who perform the sacrifice.
16th / 17th century.


Origin : Mali (Bandiagara cliffs area)
Type : Statuary
Ethnic group : Dogon
Material : Eroded wood, very fine sacrificial patina

5324

Dogon healing figure

Originally drive in the ground, this statue presents a very schematic style. Metal parts are fixed on the neck and the head, the face is simply outlined. A thick sacrificial patina, very encrusted, is visible on the higher part. This figure is most probably of prophylactic use.

Probably second part of the 19th century.


Origin : Mali
Type : Statuary
Ethnic group : Dogon
Material : Wood, iron, sacrificial materials

5307

Dogon kneeling figure

This very ancient figure depicting a knelt figure is particularly fine and delicate. The blunted face, as well as the elongated bust without arm, reinforces its fragile appearance.

The knelt posture is a theme commonly spread in Dogon art, and reserved for the guardian ancestors' cult (narin). This posture refers to the Dogon women who assume this pose at funerals, as a sign of their gratitude to the deceased. Placed on the ancestors' altar (vageu), the aim of this statuette could be to preserve the gesture and the feeling it embodies.
17th century or earlier.

Origin : Jean-Michel Huguenin, Paris, 1994


Origin : Mali (Sangha area)
Type : Statuary
Ethnic group : Dogon
Material : Wood, very deep sacrificial patina

2230

Dogon seated figure

This seated female figure is characteristic of Dogon art in the area of Bandiagara cliffs. The most notable elements are short bent legs and lengthened arms, with the breasts located high on the chest.

This object was probably placed on a family's ancestral altar to serve as supports for the deceased ancestors' soul (vageu). It is here about a particularly elegant specimen of this type of object.
18th / 19th century.


Origin : Mali (Sangha area, Bandiagara cliffs)
Type : Statuary
Ethnic group : Dogon
Material : Very eroded wood, traces of old crusty patina

2144

Dogon votive figure

This statuette depicts a male figure, the arms in offering position. The face and the legs are shaped in a specific style of Dogon located in the Seno plain.

The sacrificial patina which covers this sculpture is characteristic of the objects used on the personal altar reserved for healing rituals (jabe). This sacrificial material is in fact the support of the vital force called nyama and being in all things (animals, plants, minerals, as well as in the supernatural beings or the Men). The sacrifice (bulu) is offered to vivify and resuscitate nyama, and this in the positive and beneficial intention of this ritual.
19th century or earlier.


Origin : Mali (Bereli area)
Type : Statuary
Ethnic group : Dogon
Material : Wood, very old black sweating patina, sacrificial materials

2326


Statuary • Ewe • Togo
 

Female Ewe altar figure

This statuette is considered to link the visible to the invisible, the spirits and the ancestors to the human beings. The end of the figure is generally stuck into the ground so as to emerge from the earth. The Ewe personifies the earth as an ambivalent mother. Apart from alluding to the interdependence of the sexes in the procreative process, the male figure alludes to the negative aspect of the spirits, and the female to the positive one. This female figure was one of a pair originally placed in a family altar.
This example symbolizes the enigma of the maternal principle in the Ewe universe. The full breasts and longish neck evoke maternal support, beauty and grace. The schematized pose, enlarged rounded head and pronounced facial features allude to the procreative power with which she renews life at the physical and metaphysical levels.
Probably 18th century.


Origin : Togo (Southwestern area, bordering Ghana)
Type : Statuary
Ethnic group : Ewe
Material : Bright brownish wood, aged and eroded patina

4322


Statuary • Goemai • Nigeria
 

Goemai healing figure

While little informations are available on the Goemai, present data indicates that such statues have a variety of essential communal roles and function in divination, in healing rites, and as vessels to facilitate communication with the ancestors or spirit beings. Goemai art is an integral component in the maintenance of communal health.
This fine and old piece, which is in a particularly original style, presents large ears.

19th century or earlier.


Origin : Nigeria (Northern area of the Benue River)
Type : Statuary
Ethnic group : Goemai
Material : Wood with brownish patina, traces of sacrificial materials

2982


Statuary • Hemba • D. R. Congo
 

Hemba ancestor figure

This statue represents a standing male figure, the hands clasped on the abdomen. The sculpture, all in curves, expresses both an infinite softness and a great interiority. The features of the face are fine and regular : almond eyes, right and pointed nose, the curvilinear mouth following the oval of the chin. A cruciform motif carved in shallow relief decorates the heavy coiffure (see attached pictures).
The Hemba place wooden ancestor figures, called singiti, in small huts which protect the figures from the elements. Many of these huts contain several figures. The figure expresses the dependence of the world of the living on that of the dead, and is thus a funerary and religious symbol. It indicates the ownership of the land and the possession of social authority, both of which are based on the organization of clans and lineages. Even the wood, out of which many of these figures are carved, iroko, possesses a religious significance. These statues are receptacles for the spirits of the dead as well as being the source of life force for their descendants.

19th century.

Origin : Purchased from a private collection, Belgium


Origin : D. R. Congo (Mbalula area)
Type : Statuary
Ethnic group : Hemba
Material : Wood, exceptional and aged patina, both crusty and glossy, raffia skirt

5399


Statuary • Igbo (Ibo) • Nigeria
 

Igbo ancestors figures

These figures are tutelary deities known as alusi or agbara. The arms position with hands held as if begging is interpreted as indicating the deity's readiness to receive sacrificial offers as well as its open-handedness and honesty. The incised scars and pigments indicate titled status.
19th century.

Dimensions : 23. 7 and 24. 8 inches.

Origin : Yves Develon, Paris


Origin : Nigeria
Type : Statuary
Ethnic group : Igbo (Ibo)
Material : Wood with ochre, reddish brown, black and pink pigments, cloth, sacrificial patina

5137

Ikenga figure

Ikenga is the embodiment of traditional male leadership and power among the Igbo. Men strived to achieve rank and a high title. The shrine expressed their personal spirit or chi, a source of strength and courage. Ikenga visualizes the authority of leadership : the ability to sit in judgment and be a warrior-chief. The representation of a carved wooden stool strongly resembles that associated with title-taking by elite men. These are often portrayed in representations of seated figures owned by lineage segments in respect of the ikenga cult. The horns refer to the powerful and aggressive nature of the ram. An ikenga typically received offerings as farm produce (sacrifices for the yam deity, ifejioku), prayers to the physical power (the power of the right hand and arm, the obo, and the right hand cult, aka nri, literally « hand of the food »), and stands for personal determination (ivri) in warrior secret society.
Such ikenga is protected from the profane world of the outside, the village, in the family sanctuary and shrines within (obi). It could be seen as a « shrine within a shrine », symbolizing the okpossi (representing one's personal spirit or chi) in addition to the ikenga cult.
Probably 19th century.


Origin : Nigeria (Awka area)
Type : Statuary
Ethnic group : Igbo (Ibo)
Material : Dense wood with encrusted patina, sacrificial materials in places, traces of pigments

5369

Ikenga figures

Ikenga is the embodiment of traditional male leadership and power among the Igbo. Men strived to achieve rank and a high title. The shrine expressed their personal spirit or chi, a source of strength and courage. Ikenga visualizes the authority of leadership : the ability to sit in judgment and be a warrior-chief. The representation of a carved wooden stool strongly resembles that associated with title-taking by elite men. These are often portrayed in representations of seated figures owned by lineage segments in respect of the ikenga cult. The horns refer to the powerful and aggressive nature of the ram. An ikenga typically received offerings as farm produce (sacrifices for the yam deity, ifejioku), prayers to the physical power (the power of the right hand and arm, the obo, and the right hand cult, aka nri, literally « hand of the food »), and stands for personal determination (ivri) in warrior secret society.
Such ikenga is protected from the profane world of the outside, the village, in the family sanctuary and shrines within (obi). It could be seen as a « shrine within a shrine », symbolizing the okpossi (representing one's personal spirit or chi) in addition to the ikenga cult.
18th / 19th century.


Origin : Nigeria ()
Type : Statuary
Ethnic group : Igbo (Ibo)
Material : Dense wood with crusty patina, sacrificial materials

5354

Ikenga shrine figure

Ikenga is the embodiment of traditional male leadership and power among the Igbo. Men strived to achieve rank and a high title. The shrine expressed their personal spirit or chi, a source of strength and courage. Ikenga visualizes the authority of leadership : the ability to sit in judgment and be a warrior-chief. The representation of a carved wooden stool strongly resembles that associated with title-taking by elite men. These are often portrayed in representations of seated figures owned by lineage segments in respect of the ikenga cult. The horns refer to the powerful and aggressive nature of the ram. An ikenga typically received offerings as farm produce (sacrifices for the yam deity, ifejioku), prayers to the physical power (the power of the right hand and arm, the obo, and the right hand cult, aka nri, literally « hand of the food »), and stands for personal determination (ivri) in warrior secret society.
Such ikenga is protected from the profane world of the outside, the village, in the family sanctuary and shrines within (obi). It could be seen as a « shrine within a shrine », symbolizing the okpossi (representing one's personal spirit or chi) in addition to the ikenga cult.
Probably 18th / 19th century.


Origin : Nigeria (Awka area)
Type : Statuary
Ethnic group : Igbo (Ibo)
Material : Wood with red-brownish patina, traces of sacrificial materials

4238

Ikenga shrine figure

Ikenga is the embodiment of traditional male leadership and power among the Igbo. Men strived to achieve rank and a high title. The shrine expressed their personal spirit or chi, a source of strength and courage. Ikenga visualizes the authority of leadership : the ability to sit in judgment and be a warrior-chief. The symbolic representation of a carved wooden stool strongly resembles that associated with title-taking by elite men. These are often portrayed in representations of seated figures owned by lineage segments in respect of the ikenga cult. The horns refer to the powerful and aggressive nature of the ram. Exceptionally, these are chevron-shaped, and supported by a back to back couple. An ikenga typically received offerings as farm produce (sacrifices for the yam deity, ifejioku), prayers to the physical power (the power of the right hand and arm, the obo, and the right hand cult, aka nri, literally « hand of the food »), and stands for personal determination (ivri) in warrior secret society.
Such ikenga is protected from the profane world of the outside, the village, in the family sanctuary and shrines within (obi). It could be seen as a « shrine within a shrine », symbolizing the okpossi (representing one's personal spirit or chi) in addition to the ikenga cult.
Probably 19th century.


Origin : Nigeria
Type : Statuary
Ethnic group : Igbo (Ibo) (or Edo)
Material : Wood with brown patina, traces of sacrificial materials

4353

Ikenga shrine figure

Ikenga is the embodiment of traditional male leadership and power among the Isoko, Ijo, Igbo and Urhobo peoples. Men strived to achieve rank and a high title. The shrine expressed their personal spirit or chi, a source of strength and courage. Ikenga visualizes the authority of leadership : the ability to sit in judgment and be a warrior-chief. The representation of a carved wooden stool strongly resembles that associated with title-taking by elite men. These are often portrayed in representations of seated figures owned by lineage segments in respect of the ikenga cult. The horns refer to the powerful and aggressive nature of the ram. An ikenga typically received offerings as farm produce (sacrifices for the yam deity, ifejioku), prayers to the physical power (the power of the right hand and arm, the obo, and the right hand cult, aka nri, literally « hand of the food »), and stands for personal determination (ivri) in warrior secret society.
Such ikenga is protected from the profane world of the outside, the village, in the family sanctuary and shrines within. It could be seen as a « shrine within a shrine », symbolizing the okpossi (representing one's personal spirit or chi) in addition to the ikenga cult.
19th century or earlier.


Origin : Nigeria (Area of the Niger Delta)
Type : Statuary
Ethnic group : Igbo (Ibo)
Material : Wood with aged red-brownish patina, traces of sacrificial materials

5408

Ikenga statuette

Ikenga is the embodiment of traditional male leadership and power among the Igbo. Men strived to achieve rank and a high title. The shrine expressed their personal spirit or chi, a source of strength and courage. Ikenga visualizes the authority of leadership : the ability to sit in judgment and be a warrior-chief. The representation of a carved wooden stool strongly resembles that associated with title-taking by elite men. These are often portrayed in representations of seated figures owned by lineage segments in respect of the ikenga cult. The horns refer to the powerful and aggressive nature of the ram. An ikenga typically received offerings as farm produce (sacrifices for the yam deity, ifejioku), prayers to the physical power (the power of the right hand and arm, the obo, and the right hand cult, aka nri, literally « hand of the food »), and stands for personal determination (ivri) in warrior secret society.
Such ikenga is protected from the profane world of the outside, the village, in the family sanctuary and shrines within (obi). It could be seen as a « shrine within a shrine », symbolizing the okpossi (representing one's personal spirit or chi) in addition to the ikenga cult.
18th / 19th century.


Origin : Nigeria
Type : Statuary
Ethnic group : Igbo (Ibo)
Material : Dense wood with crusty patina, sacrificial materials

4365


Statuary • Isoko • Nigeria
 

Ikenga shrine figure

Ikenga is the embodiment of traditional male leadership and power among the Isoko, Ijo, Igbo and Urhobo peoples. Men strived to achieve rank and a high title. The shrine expressed their personal spirit or chi, a source of strength and courage. Ikenga visualizes the authority of leadership : the ability to sit in judgment and be a warrior-chief. The representation of a carved wooden stool strongly resembles that associated with title-taking by elite men. These are often portrayed in representations of seated figures owned by lineage segments in respect of the ikenga cult. The horns refer to the powerful and aggressive nature of the ram. An ikenga typically received offerings as farm produce (sacrifices for the yam deity, ifejioku), prayers to the physical power (the power of the right hand and arm, the obo, and the right hand cult, aka nri, literally « hand of the food »), and stands for personal determination (ivri) in warrior secret society.
Such ikenga is protected from the profane world of the outside, the village, in the family sanctuary and shrines within. It could be seen as a « shrine within a shrine », symbolizing the okpossi (representing one's personal spirit or chi) in addition to the ikenga cult.
19th century or earlier.


Origin : Nigeria (Area of the Niger Delta)
Type : Statuary
Ethnic group : Isoko
Material : Wood with red-brownish patina, traces of sacrificial materials

4364


Statuary • Keaka • Nigeria
 

Keaka protective figure

This anthropomorphic figure probably depicts a protective spirit of the village. It was formerly used to protect the houses, and to chase away the ghostly spirits of the deceased.

The stylistic construction of this piece is fairly crude and austere. This rustic kind of sculpture marks the transition between Cross River sculptures (Igbo, Ibibio …) and the arts from the Cameroon Grasslands (Bamiléké, Bangwa …).
18th / 19th century or earlier.


Origin : Nigeria (Southern Cross River area, bordering on Cameroon)
Type : Statuary
Ethnic group : Keaka
Material : Wood, very old and thick crusty sacrificial patina, vegetal fibers

2402


Statuary • Lobi • Burkina Faso
 

Lobi figure

This very old figure was used for the worship of the ancestors' spirits, on an altar located in every Lobi house in a small room called thil du. Here are also placed an assortment of clay sculptures, iron staffs, pots and bottles, and frequent sacrifices are made at this altar to ensure the goodwill of the ancestors and to avoid illness.


Origin : Burkina Faso
Type : Statuary
Ethnic group : Lobi
Material : Wood, traces of sacrificial blood patina and chicken feathers

2513

Lobi figure

This little sculpture, crouching and pensive, is a rare representation of a great ancestor of the lineage. This figure had the function to protect against wizards and to keep the curses away. It was placed on the family altar of the protective ancestors. It had also a role of receptacle to communicate with the invisible and protective spirits (thil), and with ancestors of the familial lineage.

This representation is carried out with great care, drawing attention to the distress, through the sensitivity of the features and the sensuality of the forms. This sculpture is undoubtedly one of the most moving in our exhibition, and can be considered as one of the masterpieces of the Lobi art.


Origin : Burkina Faso
Type : Statuary
Ethnic group : Lobi
Material : Wood with red-brownish patina, traces of sacrificial materials

2995

Lobi figure

This little sculpture is certainly the representation of a great female ancestor of the lineage. This figure, drawing attention to the details, had the function to protect against wizards and to keep the curses away. It was placed on the family altar of the protective ancestors. It had also a role of receptacle to communicate with the invisible and protective spirits (thil), and with ancestors of the familial lineage.


Origin : Burkina Faso
Type : Statuary
Ethnic group : Lobi
Material : Wood with bright brownish patina, traces of sacrificial materials

5411

Lobi figure with container

This little sculpture, carrying a heavy container, is certainly the representation of a great female ancestor of the lineage. This figure, carried out with great care, drawing attention to the details, had the function to protect against wizards and to keep the curses away. It was placed on the family altar of the protective ancestors. It had also a role of receptacle to communicate with the invisible and protective spirits (thil), and with ancestors of the familial lineage.


Origin : Burkina Faso
Type : Statuary
Ethnic group : Lobi
Material : Wood with red-brownish patina, traces of sacrificial materials

5211


Statuary • Luba • D. R. Congo
 

Luba two-faced figure

This figurine, called kabeja, was the privilege of chiefs, diviners and high-ranking members of the esoteric societies (mainly the secret society bagabo). Used for the veneration of ancestors, an important feature of life in Hemba society, this two-headed statuette was connected with primordial twins' cult.

A hole in the figurine's head served as receptacle for medicinal substances (called bijimba), items thought to have rare powers, such as the hair of twins (fertility), but it was considered to be void until charged with substances.

18th / 19th century.


Origin : D. R. Congo
Type : Statuary
Ethnic group : Luba / Hemba
Material : Beautiful deep black patinated wood, ancient fracture on one of the arms

2512


Statuary • Montol • Nigeria
 

Montol figure

Located on the northern bank of the Benue River, the few Montol population is enough unrecognized. This sculpture, whose simplified face with flat headdress, was probably used in divination and healing rites by a secret men's society called komtin.

The Montol statuary, of which the use was essentially therapeutic, expresses at the same time the power and an expression of constraint (slight dissymmetry, « rough » aspect, painful expression returned by the slope of the head backwards).
18th / 19th century.

Origin : Collection Yves Develon, Paris, 1995


Origin : Nigeria (Located on the northern area of the Benue River)
Type : Statuary
Ethnic group : Montol
Material : Wood, deep natural and sacrificial patina

2098

Montol figure

Located on the northern bank of the Benue River, the few Montol population is enough unrecognized. This male healing figure, whose ape-like face is projected forward, was probably used in divination and healing rites by a secret men's society called komtin. Present data indicates that such statues have a variety of essential communal roles and function in divination, in healing ceremonies, and as vessels to facilitate communication with the lineage ancestors or spirit beings. Montol art is an integral component in the maintenance of communal health.

The Montol statuary, of which the use was essentially therapeutic, expresses at the same time the power and an expression of constraint (slight dissymmetry, « rough » aspect of the face, painful expression returned by the posture of the arms and the legs). The patina demonstrates clearly its great age and its ritual use.
18th / 19th century.


Origin : Nigeria (Located on the northern area of the Benue River)
Type : Statuary
Ethnic group : Montol
Material : Wood, deep natural and sacrificial patina

5140

Montol healer figure

This statuette, probably of therapeutic use, represents a female figure in very stylized geometrical forms. The arms are truncated, and legs are flared.

Located on the northern bank of the Benue river, the few Montol population is enough unrecognized. Present data indicates that such statues have a variety of essential communal roles and function in many ways : in divination, in healing rites, in lineage to affirm status, and as vessels to facilitate communication with the ancestors or spirit beings. This statuette was probably used in divination and healing rites by a secret men's society called komtin or kwomten.
19th century or earlier.

Origin : Collection Yves Develon, Paris, 1995


Origin : Nigeria
Type : Statuary
Ethnic group : Montol (or Ngas)
Material : Wood with beautiful deep encrusted gray patina

2406


Statuary • Mumuye • Nigeria
 

Mumuye ancestor figure

While little information is available on the Mumuye, present data indicates that such statues have a variety of essential communal roles and function in many ways : in divination, in healing rites, in lineage to affirm status, and as vessels to facilitate communication with the ancestors or spirit beings. Mumuye art is an integral component in the maintenance of communal health.

This piece, which is in a particularly original style, presents large ears with an unusually hollowed-out face. The chin is decorated by a labret. This fine and old statue has a restrained sensuality, and the form evoked here is to our knowledge unique.
Probably 18th / 19th century.

Origin : Collection Yves Develon, Paris, 1994


Origin : Nigeria (Southern area of the Benue River, bordering on Cameroon)
Type : Statuary
Ethnic group : Mumuye
Material : Wood with brownish patina, traces of sacrificial materials

2471


Statuary • Senufo • Ivory Coast
 

Senufo diviner's figure

This female statuette, of which the bust serves as a lid for a bowl, itself laid on a four-legged Senufo stool, is a representation of a bush spirit (called mandeo, tugu or ndeo). The hands become part of the mass, plunged into the bowl like through the lid. Such object constitutes the essential equipment of the healer-soothsayer (called sando). The statuette both represents and serves as the abode for the bush spirits who are believed to be in contact with the diviner.
Used for the practice of divination, this statuette was consulted in order to resolve problems and obtain better fortune or health. Such elaborate figure was almost exclusively reserved for the diviner, and was probably in use for the village divination society (the sandogo, a female association).
18th / 19th century or earlier.


Origin : Ivory Coast (Korhogo area)
Type : Statuary
Ethnic group : Senufo
Material : Dark-dripping patinated wood

2938

Senufo diviner's figure

This female statuette is a representation of a bush spirit (called mandeo, tugu or ndeo). Such object constitutes the essential equipment of the healer-soothsayer (called sando). The statuette both represents and serves as the abode for the bush spirits who are believed to be in contact with the diviner.
Used for the practice of divination, this statuette was consulted in order to resolve problems and obtain better fortune or health. Such elaborate figure was almost exclusively reserved for the diviner, and was probably in use for the village divination society (the sandogo, a female association).
19th century.


Origin : Ivory Coast (Korhogo area)
Type : Statuary
Ethnic group : Senufo
Material : Wood, dark sacrificial patina

5138

Senufo fertility figure

This fertility figure depicts a woman with very harmonious proportions. The headdress is characteristic of the Senufo, and the construction is the expression of a very old and pure style. This statuette was intended to favor a birth. Usually it was also associated with divination done by the men's poro and the women's sandogo secret societies.

The body is covered with ritual scarifications (ridges on the chest, cheeks, and around the navel), and with an old fine lacquered brown patina.
Probably 19th century or earlier.


Origin : Ivory Coast (Mankono area)
Type : Statuary
Ethnic group : Senufo
Material : Bright brownish wood, aged patina

2416

Senufo fertility figure

This figure depicts a woman with very harmonious proportions. The headdress is characteristic of those used by the Senufo during the funeral ceremonies, and the construction is the expression of a very old and pure style. This statuette was probably intended to honor the deceased. Usually it was also associated with divination done by the men's poro and the women's sandogo secret societies.

Probably 19th century or earlier.


Origin : Ivory Coast
Type : Statuary
Ethnic group : Senufo
Material : Wood, aged patina and traces of sacrificial materials

5312

Senufo figure with offering

This female figure with an offering bowl is the representation of a bush spirit (called mandeo, tugu or ndeo). Such object constitutes the essential equipment of the healer-soothsayer (called sando). The statuette both represents and serves as the abode for the bush spirits who are believed to be in contact with the diviner.
Used for the practice of divination, this statuette was consulted in order to resolve problems and obtain better fortune or health. Such elaborate figure was almost exclusively reserved for the diviner, and was probably in use for the village divination society (the sandogo, a female association).
Probably end of 19th century.


Origin : Ivory Coast (Korhogo area)
Type : Statuary
Ethnic group : Senufo
Material : Dark patinated wood, brown at the angles, black coating and kaolin

5314

Senufo figures

These fertility figures depict a couple with very harmonious proportions. The headdress is characteristic of the Senufo, and the construction is the expression of a pure and stocky style. These statuettes were intended to favor a birth, and also to honor the memory of the lineage ancestors. Usually, these figures were associated with divination done by the men's poro and the women's sandogo secret societies.

The body is covered with ritual scarifications (ridges on the chest, cheeks, and around the navel), and with an old fine lacquered brown patina.

Probably middle of the 19th century.


Origin : Ivory Coast
Type : Statuary
Ethnic group : Senufo
Material : Wood, very fine aged patina

2490

Senufo figures

These fertility figures depict a couple with very harmonious proportions. The headdress is characteristic of the Senufo, and the construction is the expression of a pure and stocky style. These statuettes were intended to favor a birth, and also to honor the memory of the lineage ancestors. Usually, these figures were associated with divination done by the men's poro and the women's sandogo secret societies.

These figures are carried out with great care, and the aged glossy patina give evidence of their great antiquity.

Probably middle of the 19th century.


Origin : Ivory Coast
Type : Statuary
Ethnic group : Senufo
Material : Wood, very fine aged patina, glossy in places

5379

Senufo seated figure

This female statue, seated on a four-legged Senufo stool, is a representation of a bush spirit (called mandeo, tugu or ndeo). Such object constitutes the essential equipment of the healer-soothsayer (called sando). The statue both represents and serves as the abode for the bush spirits who are believed to be in contact with the diviner.
Used for the practice of divination, this statue was consulted in order to resolve problems and obtain better fortune or health. Such elaborate figure was almost exclusively reserved for the diviner, and was probably in use for the village divination society (the sandogo, a female association).

Origin : Bertil Berg collection, Sweden


Origin : Ivory Coast
Type : Statuary
Ethnic group : Senufo
Material : Wood, grayish encrusted patina, sacrificial materials

5345


Statuary • Songye • D. R. Congo
 

Songye figure

Songye figures were used by the diviner-healer (nganga) to protect the village, contribute to fertility and well-being and to chase away enemies and bush spirits. Small figures were owned by families. Most important are the many different types of substance and paraphernalia applied to the figures. They were empowered by the addition of materials with magical properties, including horns, skins, beads, tacks, shells, cloth and small figures. As a result of the individual treatments the object receives, each figure is seen as imbued with its own identity and even its individual name.

Origin : Pierre Dartevelle, Brussels

Lit. : « La redoutable statuaire Songye d'Afrique centrale », François Neyt, Fonds Mercator, Anvers, 2004


Origin : D. R. Congo
Type : Statuary
Ethnic group : Songye (Eki, Sanga and Kalebwe area)
Material : Wood, metal, ritual agglomerate

5400

Songye figure

Songye figures were used by the diviner-healer (nganga) to protect the village, contribute to fertility and well-being and to chase away enemies and bush spirits. Small figures were owned by families. Most important are the many different types of substance and paraphernalia applied to the figures. They were empowered by the addition of materials with magical properties, including horns, skins, beads, tacks, shells, cloth and small figures. As a result of the individual treatments the object receives, each figure is seen as imbued with its own identity and even its individual name.

Origin : Purchased from a private collection, New York

Lit. : « La redoutable statuaire Songye d'Afrique centrale », François Neyt, Fonds Mercator, Anvers, 2004


Origin : D. R. Congo
Type : Statuary
Ethnic group : Songye
Material : Wood, metal, oily patina and ritual agglomerate

5403


Statuary • Tellem • Mali
 

Tellem votive figure

This very old figure undoubtedly depicts a nommo, with hands on both sides of the face. The arms are U-shaped, and the artist used this gesture to create a simplification of the forms to represent a figure with raised arms.

Few Dogon sculptures are as ambiguous as this one. The gesture of raised arms represents various aspects of nommo role in the organization of the universe and its relationship with the god amma, and also in Dogon rituals of fertility (the spiritual being nommo lebe serou is in water and rain).

This piece has all the characteristics of the sculptures attributed to Tellem who populated cliffs of Bandiagara from the 11th to the 14th century. This style is particularly visible in the design of the face, the mouth, the eyes, the nose, and also in the fleshy modeling of the legs.


Origin : Mali (Tireli area, Bandiagara cliffs)
Type : Statuary
Ethnic group : Tellem / Dogon
Material : Wood very eroded and micro fissured, dry patina

2284


Statuary • Tusyan • Burkina Faso
 

Tusyan divination figure

This figure was used by the diviner to consult the spirits, both ancestral and supernatural, and to bring fertility and prosperity. This female sculpture represents a standing figure, the legs anchored on a cylindrical ringed base. The elongated torso has a generous breast, the arms are held open and the hands lie on the hips. The round shoulders are supporting a head wearing an expression of serenity and gracious features, the eyes are in the form of coffee grains, the small open mouth indicated by a simple oval with patina. The coiffure which crowns the statuette is in the form of a shell with parallel and regular linear striations.

The thick aged patina of this object demonstrates clearly its great age and its ritual use by many generations.
18th / 19th century.


Origin : Burkina Faso (Orodara area, southwestern Burkina Faso)
Type : Statuary
Ethnic group : Tusyan
Material : Wood with a very old crusty patina and granitic surface with gray tonality

2482


Statuary • Yoruba • Nigeria
 

Eshu figure


Origin : Nigeria
Type : Statuary
Ethnic group : Yoruba (Igbomina)
Material : Wood, aged and glossy patina

5388



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