Dogon Zoomorphic Mask

SKU PF.6159
Circa

19th Century AD – 20th Century AD

Dimensions

11.75″ (29.8cm) high

Medium

Wood

Origin

Mali

Gallery Location

USA


 

The Dogon tribe has one of the richest masking traditions in Africa, remarkable both for the diversity of forms as well as the variety of functions. This mask, representing an animal, was likely worn to mark the dama ceremony. Held every five years, the dama ceremony restored order to the universe and honored the passage of the deceased into the realm of the ancestors. Masquerading dancers, numbering up to four hundred, were considered an integral aspect of the festivities. Thus, the types of masks would surely have been equally as numerous. Among the most famous dama masks are the walu, a type that depicts a mythical antelope. Although this mask shares many features with a typical walu mask, missing are the upright horn protrusions that would identify this animal as an antelope. Instead, this mask might depict a monkey. The triangular- shaped eyes, prominently recessed brow, and long linear nose are all characteristic of Dogon mask. The small, rounded ears and long, tapering mouth suggest the simean identification. Most likely, this mask would have been related to a myth or parable involving the monkey. No doubt this myth in turn would relate to death and the passage of life, therefore making it an appropriate part of the dama ceremony.

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