Dogon Ancestor Figure

SKU DC.0705
Circa

20th Century AD

Dimensions

11.5″ (29.2cm) high x 3.5″ (8.9cm) wide

Medium

Wood

Origin

Mali

Gallery Location

USA


 

This powerful piece is an ancestor figure made by the Dogon people of Mali. It displays a number of traditional elements, including the domed, crested head, the long beard, the angular shoulders/arms and the flexed legs. However, the extremely geometric rendering, regular patination and reductive incised work imply that it is a reiterative piece, made somewhat later than the pieces that inspired it.

The Dogon have been described as the most studied and least understood tribal group in Africa. They have a long, continuous history, with exceptional cultural diversity. They moved to this area in the 15th century to escape Mande and Islamic slavers, displacing a number of local tribes (including the Tellem and Niongom). They are excessively prolific in terms of artistic production; masks/figures in stone, iron, bronze/copper and of course wood are all known, in addition to cave/rock painting and adaptation of more modern materials.

There are around seventy-eight different mask forms still in production (and numerous extinct variants), with applications ranging from circumcision to initiation and funeral rites (damas). There are also masks and figures that are directed towards regard for twins, snakes, ancestors, nommo, hogons (holy men); even secular items are decorated with beneficial iconographic designs including headrests, granary doors/locks, house-posts and troughs. The scale of the population and the size of the area in which they live have resulted in considerable artistic diversity in terms of styles.

This piece is carved in the style reminiscent of the Master of Ogol, from the central area of the massif. It is a powerful and striking piece of African art.

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