Dogon Yo Domolo Thief's Crook Staff
- Tribe: Dogon
- Origin: Mali
- Approx Age: 1965 - 75
- Materials: Wood
- Dimensions cm: 90 long x 26 wide (head length)
- Ref. Number: M0574
A mid 20th century Dogon Yo Domolo thief’s crook staff used by men in a Dogon religious society called Yona, or “ritual thieves” This has been vetted as an authentic staff. Beautifully carved and a stunning patina of authentic use.
Held in the hand or worn over the shoulder, these curved staffs are the emblem of the society of yona (ritual thieves). The principal activity of the society seems to occur at the funeral of one of its members, stealing domestic animals to be sacrificed and eaten at the funeral ceremony. Each Dogon clan has a ritual thief. The staffs are called yo domolo (thief’s staff ), and frequently have a hook-shaped form.
They are usually carved with with a zigzag motif symbolizing the rain (the mythical ancestor lebe), and with the hooked end resembling the head of a horse-like animal with pointed ears. It should be interpreted as a symbol of the horse that pulled nommo celestial ark to water after its fall to earth, or also as the mythical blacksmith stealing embers of the sun in order to create fire.
—from Christophe Rolley, www.artheos.org
The sacred story of the Nommo stealing a piece of the sun and the subsequent creation of the human world is dramatized by a Dogon religious society called Yona, or “ritual thieves” (Roberts 1988). Here an elder named Wagu Seru Dolo of Sanga village wears a yo domolo shoulder crook as he might when he and fellow Yona perform at the funeral of one of their number, or at the significant moments of the ritual calendar. Yona are “thieves” because they re-enact the Nommo’s defiant act, and others in preparation for their rituals; but paradoxically, they also reinforce the ideals of Dogon society as they enforce a code against theft and other crime. The ears of the crook’s animal head are carved as paired ancestors on this yo domolo, in a reference to enduring values.