Dogon Door Lock

  • Tribe: Dogon
  • Origin: Mali
  • Approx Age: Early 20th Century
  • Materials: Wood
  • Dimensions cm: 26 (tall) x 28
  • Ref. Number: 0343

Simple and traditional Dogon Door Lock of the Dogon tribe Mali. Consisting of two pieces of wood that show good signs of use. It has a metal trim with the locking system still in place, locking pins are also present, incised markings in a diamond formation cover the whole lock, together with a darken patina this lock at some time in its life would have been used either on a house door or more usually used as a means of keeping closed a granary.

Provenance: Ex German Collection

This simple and straight forward style of the Dogon door lock allows the door of either a home or granary to be held closed keeping it safe and secure. Door locks found on granary doors give us a wonderful insight into the  symbolic use of animal and figurative imagery in an abstract way, The representational carvings of ancestors serve to keep spirits away and offer protection from worldly and unworldly sources of harm.

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The Dogon inhabit the large austere Bandiagara plateau, with most of the villages situated on cliffs to the north and the east. Dogon, ethnic group of the central plateau region of Mali that spreads across the border into Burkina Faso. There is some doubt as to the correct classification of the many dialects of the Dogon language; the language has been placed in the Mande, Gur, and other branches of the Niger-Congo language family, but its relationship to other languages of the family, if any, is uncertain. The Dogon number about 600,000, and the majority of them live in the rocky hills, mountains, and plateaus of the Bandiagara Escarpment. They are mainly an agricultural people; their few craftsmen, largely metalworkers and leather workers, form distinct castes.

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Dogon Village


They have no centralized system of government but live in villages composed of patrilineages and extended families whose head is the senior male descendant of the common ancestor. Each large district has a hogon, or spiritual leader, and there is a supreme hogon for the whole country. In his dress and behaviour the hogon symbolizes the Dogon myth of creation, to which the Dogon relate much of their social organization and culture. Their metaphysical system—which categorizes physical objects, personifies good and evil, and defines the spiritual principles of the Dogon personality—is more abstract than that of most other African peoples. Dogon religious life is heightened every 60 years by a ceremony called the sigui, which occurs when the star Sirius appears between two mountain peaks. Before the ceremony, young men go into seclusion for three months, during which they talk in a secret language. The general ceremony rests on the belief that some 3,000 years ago amphibious beings from Sirius visited the Dogon.

Reference: Encyclopedia Britannica

The Dogon at first were hunters, they now cultivate their staple diet of millet, and also sorghum, and wheat on the cliff tops, which they have had to convert due to the scarcity of water sources. The Dogon are among African cultures that have remained closest to their ancestral traditions.

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One such tradition is building granaries and houses for grain storage. Doors of these granaries are often adorned with impressive carvings of animals or people which serve as invocations of deities or spirits, or as symbols of status. Each door decorated and telling its own story through its depicted characters. The stored grain is then considered “safe” when it is guarded by the ancestors whose images are depicted on granary doors.

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Many of the beautiful and elaborate Dogon doors , with their symbols of spiritual protection to keep safe a home or granary have equally impressive locks made with figures or animals making the lock as impressive as the door itself.