Dogon Aduno Koro Ritual Vessel

  • Tribe: Dogon
  • Origin: Mali
  • Approx Age: Mid 20th Century 65 - 70 years old
  • Materials: Wood
  • Dimensions cm: 95 long x 41 tall x 33 wide
  • Ref. Number: M0567

A beautiful and large Dogon Aduno Koro ritual vessel was collected from a village North of Mopti.  This zoomorphic container depicts a horse and has the 8 primordial beings carved into its sides (4 aside) with a turtle in the centre on both sides. and has a Hogon figure lying down on the lid. I believe the lid, even though it fits very well, could have been made at a different time or as a replacement for a broken original one as this is common. This has had a few knocks, chips and age cracks from extensive use and age, and has a lovely partial encrusted patina from what it is used for.

This elaborately carved, monumental container was used to hold food consumed during the investment rituals of Dogon religious and political leaders known as hogon. Hogon are the high priests of the cult of Lebe, the first Dogon ancestor to die, whose body was miraculously transformed into a snake after his death. Associated with regeneration and renewal, the cult is charged with maintaining the earth’s fertility and ensuring the protection and well-being of Dogon society.

Dogon Ritual vessel, ceremonial ark Dogon food trough, ark of the world

This vessel’s large size and visual elaboration indicates the hogon’s importance within the life of a Dogon community. Its complex iconography can be interpreted using Dogon accounts of cosmology recorded in the early twentieth century. At the apex of the vessel, a heroic equestrian figure represents the hogon. The horse is a traditional indication of wealth, prestige, and social dominance, but in this context it also suggests the hogon’s symbolic place within the Dogon cosmic order. It equates the hogon with Nommo, the mythic being that transformed itself into a horse to convey an ark carrying the eight primordial ancestors to earth. Two equine forms that support the container reinforce the hogon’s connection to this moment in creation.

Dogon Aduno Koro, Dogon Ritual vessel, ceremonial ark Dogon food trough, ark of the world

This monumental vessel was kept in the house of a lineage head in a Dogon community. It was used during an annual ritual known as “goru” to hold the offerings dedicated to Amma the Creator and the ancestors. Performed at the time of the winter solstice, the ceremony represents the culmination of rituals that celebrate the all-important millet harvest, whose abundance will support the family in the coming year.

Dogon Aduno Koro, Dogon Ritual vessel, ceremonial ark Dogon food trough, ark of the world

Such works have been described as “aduno koro,” an “ark of the world,” meant to represent the mythic ark sent by Amma to reorganize and populate the world. The “aduno koro” displays a wealth of imagery relating to the Dogon account of genesis. Holding the eight original human ancestors and everything they needed for life on earth, the ark was guided by Nommo, the primordial being who created order within the universe. When the ark settled on the ground, Nommo transformed himself into a horse and transported the eight ancestors across the earth to water, where the ark floated like a boat.

Dogon Aduno Koro Ritual Vessel, lidded container, ceremonial ark

In this example, the horse’s head is fitted with a bridle, representing Nommo’s transformation into equine form, while the eight original ancestors are portrayed in two groups of four on the sides of the vessel. The lizard-like creature separating the ancestors represents “ayo geu,” a black crocodile who killed Nommo after he completed his task of guiding the ark.

Dogon Ancestor shrine figure , Dogon ceremonial pot

Although Dogon society may seem well distanced from outside contact, their culture appears to constitute a kind of spiritual crossroads for several important ancient religious traditions. The Dogon are the keepers of a well-preserved cosmology that is cast in the symbols and myths of the classic ancient cosmologies. These myths provide a conceptual framework upon which many Dogon civic traditions are based, and often take forms distinctly similar to those that are known to have existed in ancient Egypt.
Likewise, the cosmology is often expressed ritually through familiar acts that are shared commonly with Judaism – such as the wearing of skull-caps and prayer shawls, the celebration of a Jubilee year, and the practice of circumcision. Furthermore, the cosmology appears to be a close relative to the ancient Vedic tradition of India, which served as the foundation for Buddhism and Hinduism.

Likewise, key concepts are couched in well-defined cosmological keywords whose pronunciations and meanings often closely reflect similar pronunciations and meanings found in the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic language. Parallels such as these suggest that the Dogon religion may well have had its roots in much more ancient cosmological traditions.
What we know of Dogon cosmology and religion was attained through the expeditions of French anthropologists Marcel Griaule and Germaine Dieterlen, which began in the 1930’s and continued until Griaule’s untimely death in 1956. These studies culminated in two primary texts relating to Dogon religion, entitled Dieu D’Eau and Le Reynard Pale (later translated into English as Conversations With Ogotemmeli and The Pale Fox.) Griaule and Dieterlen meticulously documented a well-kept secret Dogon tradition – known primarily to the Dogon priests and a relative handful of other tribe members.

After decades of devoted study, Griaule himself was eventually initiated into the Dogon cosmological tradition. In fact, the tradition as Griaule describes it is actually open to any person who chooses to pursue it in an orderly manner. Griaule and Dieterlen tell us that the Dogon priests are required to respond truthfully to any question posed to them that is deemed to be in order, or appropriate to the initiated status of the questioner. Likewise, a priest is required to remain silent – or even to lie, if necessary to protect inner secrets of the tradition, in response to a question that is deemed to be out of order.