The Dogon tribe in Western Mali is one of the oldest tribes in Eastern Africa.
They are known for their traditional mask dances and statue carving.
Dogon people are good in math and astronomy. They discovered without any form of telescopes that the star Sirius has a double star. Also they have a good understanding of the nature around their village.
There religion is based on two major principles. Honour the spirits and the ancestors and the believe in Ama, the Creator. The mask on the picture is called Kanaga and the dance simbolizes Ama creating the world with Heaven (two upper ‘arms’) and the Earth (two ‘legs’). This story varies from village to village.
This is the most popular and sacred mask they have. Every man has to carve his own Kanaga.
Along with traditional dances for funerals, ceremonies include honouring the ancestors and spirits, offerings and animal sacrifices.
Their tradition is in severe danger because of the Islam gaining more and more popularity in villages situated far away from the cities. Most of the inhabitants in Mali are Islamic and with the pressure of more and more extremists rising, they have to abandon their Culture.
Every sixty years there’s a big celebration called Dama. The celebrations start in one village with lots of food, traditional beer they brew themselves and with a low alcohol level, mask dances and initiations of young men. When the festival is done in one village, it moves to the next. Many people in a village dream to see this once.
During regular funeral celebrations, most villages celebrate the so called ‘second burial’ or the funeral of the spirit honoring multiple recently deceased because of bad or little harvest. This situation prevents them from doing the celebrations regularly for just a single person. But they still have to perform the ceremony, believing the spirits will get angry and stick around.
Boys awaiting their initiation learn to carve masks and learn the secret Mask Language called Sigi So. This language allows men to talk about masks and preventing the women will hear about them. Not because of racism but because they protect the women. Also masks are a business serious enough to deserve an own language. Women who get to see a real life mask will lose their fertility. But women are honored with their own masks and when she gets her period, she gets vacation for a few days, living with and elderly woman who takes care of her.
In only very recent years, the Dogon use tourism to keep -as they call it- the masks alive. When they stop using a mask it dies with the spirit in it. So by visiting them you actually do support their culture. But please don’t interrupt actual burials.
Mali, Marka wood, dark brown patina, oval hollowed base, carved with a narrow face with elongated chin, crowned by vertical protruding horns, the long nose bridge accompanied by staff-like metal projections, nearly the whole face coated with punched copper sheet, slightly dam., minor missing parts, crack (forehead, backside at the lower rim), remains of fabric; the Marka, a mixture of the Peul and the Moors are forming an individual group within the Mande (Soninke). All along the Niger this mask type is used for ceremonies associated with fishing and agriculture. H: 46 cm H: 18.1 inch
Förster, Till, Glänzend wie Gold, Gelbguss bei den Senufo, Berlin 1987, p. 168, ill. 143 Polfliet, Leo, Malinke, Marka, Bamana, Minianka, München 1983, p. 16
"Mali!“ You pick up your ringing phone and hear one of your closet friends giggle. "Hey Y/N, how are you?” You smile and sit on your couch. At his sister’s name Calum looks over and rolles his eyes. Although he’s thrilled you guys get along he finds it a tad annoying and occasionally gets the feeling she likes you more than him.
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"I’m pregnant.” Her voice speaks from down the line and your jaw drops. “Y-You what? Does Calum know?” You whisper the end so your inquisitive boyfriend doesn’t hear you. “No, nobody knows. Not even the father.” You take a deep breath to calm yourself. “Who is he?” You ask and brace yourself.
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