House altar panel "Dogon"
Dogon people, Bandiagara, Mali, West Africa, 20th century, private collection from Netherlands.
The Dogon (called also Kaador, Kaado) are an ethnic group of the central plateau region of Mali that spreads across the border into Burkina Faso. The Dogon number about 600,000, and the majority of them live in the rocky hills, mountains, and plateaus of the Bandiagara Escarpment. The Dogon are primarily agriculturalists and cultivate millet, rice, as well onions and tobacco. Other subsistence crops are sorghum, groundnuts, calabash, and cassava. In addition to agriculture, the women gather wild fruits, nuts, tubers, and honey in the bush of village borders.
Villages are built along escarpments and near a source of water. On average, a village contains around 44 houses organized around the village founder's house (ginna). The arrangement of buidings in a Dogon village is intended to symbolize a prone human body, with the most important structure "house of words" (called Tógu nà) representing the "head". Servings as the principal meeting place for men, toguna has eight posts that sometimes feature carvings od Dogon ancestors. Larger villages may have toguna for each neighborhood (nongu). Adjacent to the tonguna is a public square (tei) used for various seremonies and as a playground for children. Topped by a mud roof or cap of millet straw, granaries are also common sight in a Dogon villages. Symmetrically shaped granaries, often taller than other structures, are constructed with mud, dung, and straw over a raised platform. Interior access is provided by a square wooden door carved with images representing the owner's family history. Most villages have several types of granaries, including male granary (guy ana) for storing millet or sorghum, second type of male granary are used as shelter by older men (guyo togu). Square female granary (guyo ya) are used by women to store personal belongings such as clothing and jewelry. The menstruation hut (punulu) is situated on the edge of the village. Women having their periods are considered impure. This is where they sleep and have their meals during their so called "state of impurity. The spiritual and political leader (Hogon) is elected from among the oldest men of the dominant lineage of the village. The Hogon has to live alone in his house. The Dogon believe the sacred snake (Lébé) comes during the night to clean him and to transfer wisdom.
The Dogons are essentially animists including worshipping the ancestral twin spirit (Nommo), often depicted with a human torso attached to snakelike body. The most widespread account states that the Nommo, water god, came from the sky in space ships, and will return one day. The masked dance society Jeme (often incorrectly called Awa) is responsible for carrying out the rituals, which allow the deceased to leave the world of the living and enter the world of dead. Death in Dogon society is celebrated by three events, the funeral (called nyû yana, baga bundo or yimu gono ), the dama ceremony, and the singui. Immediately after death the nyû is held to mourn the deceased. The purpose of the dama ceremony (end of mourning) is to lead soul (kikinu) of deceased to its final resting place. Sigui is the most important ceremony of the Dogon. It takes place every 65 years to commemorate the replacement of one generation by the next. The Singui ritual lasts seven years. All men wear masks and dance in long processions. The secret Society of Sigui plays a central role in the ceremony. They prepare the ceremonies a long time in advance, and they live for three months hidden outside of the villages while nobody is allowed to see them. The great mask (Wara or Dannu) is made once every 60 years on the occasion of the Singui. The great mask is carved from a single piece of wood and measures several meters in length. It is not meant to be worn. The "voice" of the great mask is called Imina-Na. The Singui has own secret language Sigui So "language of the bush" and it was used to tell the story of creation of the universe, of human life, and the advent of death on the Earth. The men from the Society of Sigui are called the Olubaru.
Dogon society is composed of several different sects; The Lébé sect worship the ancestor Lébé Serou, the first mortal human being, who, in Dogon myth, was transformed into a snake. This sect primarily deals with agriculture, earth, and nature, including building altars out of clay. The celebration takes place once a year and lasts for three days. Binu, Binou or Bini is a supernatural and protective being that reveals itself to others in the form of animal. A totem animal is worshiped on a altar. Totems are, for example, the buffalo for Ogol-du-Haut and the panther for Ogol-du-Bas. Binu shrines area meant to house spirits of mythic ancestors who lived before mankind experienced death. Boiled milled is offered, and goats and chickens are sacrificed on a Binou altar. Villages are believed to be shared by the living (inneomo) and dead (innepuru), who coexist in a symbiotic union. The all-knowing sky god (Amma) is responsible for maintaining a balance between living and dead worlds. The celebration is once a year and consists of offering boiled millet on the conical altar of Amma. All other sects are directed to the god Amma.
The Dogon people have created more than seventy eighty mask types to represent characters in their cosmic myths which, especially the Satimbe, Kanaga and Sirige, are considered to have potent magical powers. Dogon masks represent often the bush and its mysteries. During funerary rituals they leave the bush and enter the village. The Sirige mask represents a ginna, a village founder's house. This mask measures several meters in length. The Kanaga mask has been described, among others, as a bird or a female spirit. Satimbe masks are surmounted by female figure, a mythological women who first discovered and wore a mask.
Absolutely stunning home altar panel. Wooden panel with various sacred objects, including antique skinner tools, sickle, knives, hammer, and small miniature ladder on the right side of the panel. The Dogon people have large "tree ladders". Using these the Dogon people can reach their tall granaries or get on to the flat roofs of their houses. This sacred miniature ladder (so called "soul ladder") are exact replica of the larger ladder, also with a forked open end and grooved notches, only it is much smaller. In every Dogon house there is a room with an altar. On such altars there is, with other ceremonial paraphernalia, an small round clay pot. According to a religious belief of the Dogon people, the soul of the head of the clan is preserved inside this pot, and small miniature ladders, such as this one, lean against the pot. This is because when the head of the clan dies, his soul must be able to climb out of its clay pot. Panel are in good condition. Age-related wear and signs of ritual use. Thick encrusted patina are a result of repeated sacrificial offerings (such as millet gruel, blood etc.). Dirt, dust and soil. Size approx. 23,5cm x 40,0cm x 3,0cm.