Dogon Bronze Horseman / Equestrian Figure
- Tribe: Dogon
- Origin: Mali
- Approx Age: Mid 20th or earlier
- Materials: Bronze
- Dimensions cm: 17 tall x 14 nose to tail
- Ref. Number: 0072
A rare Dogon bronze horseman figure bought back from Mali in the early 1960’s from a private French collection. These unique equestrian figures, some cast of a bronze alloy and some forged of iron, express status, prestige and power. They would bring honour to the ancestors, the current leadership and the owner of the sculpture. Although rare, horsemen as icon have existed for 1000 years in Mali. Some depict a hogon, the supreme officeholder, a semi-divine leader of great wisdom, or even a mythological emissary from a distant land.
Horsemen are remainders of the fact that, according to myth, the horse was the first animal present on earth. The Dogon style has evolved into a kind of cubism: ovoid head, squared shoulders, tapered extremities, pointed breasts, forearms, and thighs on a parallel plane, hairdos stylized by three or four incised lines. Dogon sculptures serve as a physical medium in initiations and as an explanation of the world. They serve to transmit an understanding to the initiated, who will decipher the statue according to the level of their knowledge. Carved animal figures, such as dogs and ostriches, are placed on village foundation altars to commemorate sacrificed animals, while granary doors, stools and house posts are also adorned with figures and symbols.
Dogon art is extremely versatile, although common stylistic characteristics – such as a tendency towards stylization – are apparent on the statues. Their art deals with the myths whose complex ensemble regulates the life of the individual. The sculptures are preserved in innumerable sites of worship, personal or family altars, altars for rain, altars to protect hunters, in market. As a general characterization of Dogon statues, one could say that they render the human body in a simplified way, reducing it to its essentials. Some are extremely elongated with emphasis on geometric forms.
“HORSE AND RIDER”, presents a wide range of traditional sculpture of a very prestigious theme in African art. Only the greatest leaders were depicted on horseback. Owning a horse was a luxury, only for the rich and.powerful or those of high rank. Being shown on horseback was a great honour and so was ownership of a sculpture of a horseman, celebrating aesthetic expression and indicating wealth and status.
Horses are very rare in Africa. The few to be found west of Sudan, from the lands of the Sahara and Sahel down to the fringes of the tropical forests, belong to the king, the chief warrior and to notable persons. Due to the dense humidity of the tropical rainforest and the deadly tsetse fly, only restricted numbers of horses survive. And yet rider and mount sculptures are common among the Dogon, Djenne, Bamana, Senufo and the Yoruba people. The Akan-Asante people of Ghana and the Kotoko of Chad produced a good deal of small casting brass and bronze sculptures. Some of the artists could barely even have caught a glimpse of a horse. This visually stunning book presents a wealth of African art depicting the horse and its rider in a variety of guises, from Epa masks and Yoruba divination cups to Dogon sculptures and Senufo carvings. In Mali, the Bamana, Boso and Somono ethnic groups still celebrate the festivals of the puppet masquerade. The final chapter of this book is dedicated to the art and cult of these festivals, which are still alive and well. It is not the habit of the African artist to provide intellectual statements for his work, yet his unique creative dynamic and far-searching vision does not conflict with that of his Western counterpart. It is fair to state that the African, who though not educated in Western art history, contributed his fair share to the shaping of modern art.