Dogon Kelemo Jene "Gazelle" Mask
- Tribe: Dogon
- Origin: Mali
- Approx Age: mid - third quarter 20th Century
- Materials: wood
- Dimensions cm: 72 tall x 22 wide
- Ref. Number: 0652
A Dogon Kelemo Jene mask, Kelemo Jene is the Dogon name for the gazelle mask. These masks are quite rare compared to the more common “Walu” antelope mask to which the Kelemo Jene mask is often confused with. Although there are similarities the Walu has two horns whereas the Kelemo Jene has 4 – 7 horns.
This large Dogon Kelemo Jene mask comprises of 4 large horns, two ears at the side, a flat faced front with incised rectangular grooves to which the centre two have two triangular eye holes for the dancer to see through and remains of blue and red pigments applied to the geometric patterns carved on the edges of the front and also on the sides of the mask. To the rear are holes where a netting would have been woven through to hold the mask on the head along with a bite stick at the lower of the mask which the dancer would bite onto to secure the mask whilst dancing.
Provenance: Collection of Stephen R Primoff, Houston, TX
Certain theories suggest the tribe to be of ancient Egyptian descent. They next migrated to Libya, then somewhere in the regions of Guinea or Mauritania. Around 1490 AD, fleeing invaders and/or drought, they migrated to the Bandiagara cliffs of central Mali.
Carbon-14 dating techniques used on excavated remains found in the cliffs indicate that there were inhabitants in the region before the arrival of the Dogon. They were the Toloy culture of the 3rd to 2nd centuries BC, and the Tellem culture of the 11th to 15th centuries AD.
The religious beliefs of the Dogon are enormously complex and knowledge of them varies greatly within Dogon society. Dogon religion is defined primarily through the worship of the ancestors and the spirits whom they encountered as they slowly migrated from their obscure ancestral homelands to the Bandiagara cliffs.
There are three principal cults among the Dogon;
The Awa is a cult of the dead, whose purpose is to reorder the spiritual forces disturbed by the death of Nommo, a mythological ancestor of great importance to the Dogon.
Members of the Awa cult dance with ornate carved and painted masks during both funeral and death anniversary ceremonies. There are 78 different types of ritual masks among the Dogon and their iconographic messages go beyond the aesthetic, into the realm of religion and philosophy.
The primary purpose of Awa dance ceremonies is to lead souls of the deceased to their final resting place in the family altars and to consecrate their passage to the ranks of the ancestors.
The cult of Lebe, the Earth God, is primarily concerned with the agricultural cycle and its chief priest is called a Hogon.
All Dogon villages have a Lebe shrine whose altars have bits of earth incorporated into them to encourage the continued fertility of the land.
According to Dogon beliefs, the god Lebe visits the hogons every night in the form of a serpent and licks their skins in order to purify them and infuse them with life force.
The hogons are responsible for guarding the purity of the soil and therefore officiate at many agricultural ceremonies.