Dogon Banya Ogo Hogon Pot

  • Tribe: Dogon
  • Origin: Mali
  • Approx Age: Mid - Later 20th Century
  • Materials: Wood
  • Dimensions cm: 89 tall x 33 wide
  • Ref. Number: M0554

A beautiful Dogon Banya Ogo Hogon pot from Mali. 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.

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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.

The banya ogo are sections adorned with lid made mostly of wood green caïlcédrat (Khaya senegalensis). These objects are rare: only about fifty have been listed. Despite their small number, the “cuts Hogon” are considered emblematic works of Dogon art and are admired for their aesthetics. By 1905, Lieutenant Louis Desplagnes, on mission in the central massif of the loop of the Middle Niger, had also described the production of “art.” Their function remains controversial because no visual document shows the object in context of use. To meet the most plausible assumptions made by various authors, ogo banya will be studied through their contexts of discovery, their iconography and their technical characteristics.

The banya ogo are generally made of wood “hard”, identified as caïlcédrat Khaya senegalensis on certain cuts have been the subject of analysis at the request of the Quai Branly museum and the Barbier-Mueller and University March Bloch. This essence, this locally, is appreciated in carpentry for the consistency of its drum, density and resistance to insect damage.

The main controversy regarding ogo banya is the function of the object. Indeed, despite the abundance of visual material produced on the Dogon, none has the cup in context of use.

The banya ogo are generally finely carved with a good shape and a varied iconography, reflecting the investment in the development of the sculptor of the object. These elements combined with the other aforementioned contribute to make the cut precious in the eyes of the Dogon. This type of object does not appear to be used frequently because it is kept in a place far from residential areas according Desplagnes Louis (1905). Despite the presence of ethnologists over a period of 3 years, none of them saw the object being used. Finally, few banya ogo were carved. All these elements and concord to favour the hypothesis of a ceremonial use.