Dogon Door 0440
- Tribe: Dogon
- Origin: Mali
- Approx Age: Early to mid 20th Century
- Materials: Wood
- Dimensions cm: 90 peg to peg x 53 wide
- Ref. Number: 0440
A stunning and unusual styled Dogon door depicting the 8 ancestors being a mirror image. The lock consists of an abstract style head on top and rows of zig zags underneath representing the “flowing of water” in Dogon terminology, this continues to the door as a lighter carving and then further down in the form of a fish which the Dogon relate to the “Nommo”. The door does have staining to the top area and to the rear at the bottom due to weather before it was originally collected. Ex German private collection and excellent signs of tribal usage.
The Nommo are mythological ancestral spirits (sometimes referred to as deities) worshipped by the Dogon tribe of Mali. The word Nommos is derived from a Dogon word meaning “to make one drink.” The Nommos are usually described as amphibious, hermaphroditic, fish-like creatures. Folk art depictions of the Nommos show creatures with humanoid upper torsos, legs/feet, and a fish-like lower torso and tail. The Nommos are also referred to as “Masters of the Water”, “the Monitors”, and “the Teachers”. Nommo can be a proper name of an individual, or can refer to the group of spirits as a whole. For purposes of this article “Nommo” refers to a specific individual and “Nommos” is used to reference the group of beings.
Dogon mythology says that Nommo was the first living creature created by the sky god Amma. Shortly after his creation, Nommo underwent a transformation and multiplied into four pairs of twins. One of the twins rebelled against the universal order created by Amma. To restore order to his creation, Amma sacrificed another of the Nommo progeny, whose body was dismembered and scattered throughout the universe.This dispersal of body parts is seen by the Dogon as the source for the proliferation of Binu shrines throughout the Dogons’ traditional territory; wherever a body part fell, a shrine was erected.
Like the majority of the Dogon figures, door locks (ta koguru) were traditionally sculpted by blacksmiths. Blacksmiths (called jemene) belong to a caste of highest rank, they are at the same time Masters of fire (work of metal), and carve the major part of wooden objects. Each lock is given a name in accordance with its message, person, myth, or any anecdote referred to. These symbolize a strong magic and spiritual force. This force is then, according to beliefs’ animists of Dogon, imparted to the door lock. In the Dogon myth of the creation of the Earth, the amma god bore a being figure known as nommo (the nommo anagonno, symbolized by a fish). This nommo gave birth to four couples of nommo, considered as the eight ancestors of the mankind (unum) and the four elements. Door locks were a prized gift for young brides, and passed down from generation to generation.
Dogon doors are used simply to close an opening to their homes, safe stores of tribal pieces etc and adobe granaries in which the Dogon store their grain. The figures on granary doors protect the grain inside from mould, insects and all other threats. Carvings on other doors have all sorts of meanings and sometimes even stories.
The Dogon people of Mali are known the world over for their creation of Dogon Doors. The doors have various uses in their society; first as the physical closure to their granaries. Secondly they are created and exchanged as gifts for birthdays, marriages, tokens of luck and rites of passage bequests. Thirdly, when used as a part of the architecture, as a door or shutter, in a private abode, through the use of symbols they are used to describe the occupation of the person or that persons persona or status in the village. Lastly it served as a sign to taxpayers, letting them know which form of payment was accepted in the adjoining building.