Dogon Bird Mask

  • Tribe: Dogon
  • Origin: Mali
  • Approx Age: Mid 20C
  • Materials: Wood
  • Dimensions cm: 42 long x 15 wide. 56 tall on stand
  • Ref. Number: 0069
£599.00 (RESERVED)

An aged Dogon bird mask from Mali with custom made stand. Long beak with triangular eyes, along the forehead are rows of carved zigzag decoration and stopping at the ears either side. There is a chip out of the top hole to the rear of the mask where the netting that would have held the mask on the head. The custom made stand is made with a stainless steel upright bar and the base painted and felted underneath.

Animal masks within the Dogon vary in style so much from village to village and region.

Dogon Dancer with a Dyabu mask Visit us at

Traditionally Dogon masks are controlled by the Awa society, a group of predominantly male initiates. The society’s age-grouped membership functions outside the standard Dogon organizing factors of lineage and village. It conducts the public rites that insure the transition of the dead into the spirit world. A large number of masks are included both for the funerary rites and for the dama, the celebration at the end of mourning. The Awa leaders also direct the sigui, a celebration held only every 60 years to mark the change in generations. While more than 80 different Dogon masks have been identified, they can be grouped into five categories according to medium, whether fibre or wood; subject, whether animal, human or abstract; and character, whether predatory or non predatory. Based on the French ethnographer Marcel Griaule’s 1938 publication of photographs of a mask from Ireli, this wood mask is a bird mask.

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. The subjective impression is one of immobility with a mysterious sense of a solemn gravity and serene majesty, although conveying at the same time a latent movement. Dogon sculpture recreates the hermaphroditic silhouettes of the Tellem, featuring raised arms and a thick patina made of blood and millet beer. The four Nommo couples, the mythical ancestors born of the god Amma, ornament stools, pillars or men’s meeting houses, door locks, and granary doors. The primordial couple is represented sitting on a stool, the base of which depicts the earth while the upper surface represents the sky; the two are interconnected by the Nommo.

Africa | Masked dancer during a Dama (funeral). Dogon Country, Mali | ©Michel Renaudeau:


The seated female figures, their hands on their abdomen, are linked to the fertility cult, incarnating the first ancestor who died in childbirth, and are the object of offerings of food and sacrifices by women who are expecting a child. Kneeling statues of protective spirits are placed at the head of the dead to absorb their spiritual strength and to be their intermediaries with the world of the dead, into which they accompany the deceased before once again being placed on the shrines of the ancestors. 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.

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