Dogon Marriage Ceremonial Pot

  • Tribe: Dogon
  • Origin: Mali
  • Approx Age: 1950 - 60
  • Materials: Wood
  • Dimensions cm: 164 tall x 57 @ widest point (approximately)
  • Ref. Number: M0586

A large and exquisite Dogon marriage ceremonial pot, these beautiful works of art are extremely rare. Starting at the bottom, the base is surrounded by Dogon hare masks, known as “dyommo”, the meaning of hare mask is based on the daily activities by which one survives – the hunt- but given a larger mythological meaning through symbolic expression. Survival is no small issue for the Dogon because they live in a very arid, harsh climate. Above the hare masks sit six couples, the male on each of the couples having his arm around the female. The main stem in the centre of all the seated couples reaches up to the first and the largest of the bowls, this stem has acquired some insect invasion over a period of time, this looks to have been treated some time ago and no insects are present now. The centre stem has carved patterns all the way up to the top of the pot from as far down as the hare masks at the bottom, and has carved male figures at the top of the first bowl. The centre bowl has male and female figures surrounding the outer edge, and also around the outer edge of the lid, looking like they are lying down. This lid is very heavy on its own and has a pair of beautifully surmounted horses with male riders and female figures on the back looking away. Inside these two bowls is a patina made of hundreds if not thousands of hands pulling out treats from wedding festivities.

Dogon Marriage ceremonial pot,

This prestigious pot is used for the purpose of weddings and no other!! On the day of a marriage ceremony the pot will be taken from the Hogon’s hut of where the ceremonial pieces are kept, unwrapped from the cloth it it is kept in and taken into the village opening where the ceremony will take place. The top half of the pot is then filled with gifts of jewellery from the family for the couple to be and the bottom bowl is filled full of treats, such as cola nuts for the guests. Then the rejoicing begins!

This is one of the most exquisite pieces of Dogon art that I have ever had the pleasure to see, and I feel very honoured to own such a rare and majestic ceremonial piece. The master carver of this piece really took pride in producing this amazing masterpiece.

This was  a very rare find and one that I doubt we will ever see again.  Even until this present day, items of such traditional value to the elders of the Dogon are items that they would rather not sell. A majority of the Dogon have now converted to the Islamic religion and these pots now have less value (traditionally)to the younger generation and as radical extremists are spreading through Dogon villages burning and destroying Dogon artefacts these items are now being allowed to be sold by the elders when possible rather than having them destroyed.

Dogon country (Pays Dogon) has been classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO because of its rich civilization. The Dogon are known for their art, especially their masks which are used in their complex rites and rituals. Their history is marked by the will and stubbornness to remain authentic and preserve their traditional way of life. Despite the diversity of their dialects, they are of great ethnic cohesion. They believe in a God called Ama and remain faithful to their ancestral beliefs. The Dogon live in a mysterious world of symbols, signs, hieroglyphics, colors, and emblems. Objects – a language without words – lay down man’s relationship to the world: the reign of the sacred. Thanks to their adherence to their traditions (dialects, dance, music, worship, ritual practices,parties and so on), ancestor worship and animism are still very present among the Dogon people.

The Dogon are rich in their differences. However, they are linked to a single cultural heritage that provides a history with a very strong identity

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.

Dogon Door, pot, mask, ceremony, festival

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. 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.

Dogon Horseman pot

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.

Dogon Huts:

Nowhere is life’s masquerade enacted with greater dramatic intensity than on the Bandiagara Escarpment east of Mopti. The backdrop is archetypal Africa – clusters of straw-roofed mud huts clinging to the base of a gaunt cliffside amidst fields of millet and onions. The lifestyle has been governed for aeons by the rhythms of day and night, seedtime and harvest, birth and death, endlessly repeated under the glaring tropical sun. The Dogon took refuge in these hills during the 14th century as Islamic empires gained sway over the Niger flood plain. Above the houses, the rock face is dotted with caves in which they bury their dead. The calendar is punctuated by the Dogon Mask Ceremonies – a kaleidoscope of elaborate funerals, circumcision and marriage rites, fertility festivals and religious processions honouring long-dead ancestors. Accompanied by drums, masked dancers wearing gaudy straw costumes and sometimes standing on stilts perform age-old rituals whose primeval power has inspired modern artists from Picasso onwards.

Africa | Sirige, Kanaga and Pulo Yana masqueraders during a Dama ceremony.  Dogon people. Sanga, Mali.  1959 | ©Eliot Elisofon:

Amma, the supreme deity in the Dogon pantheon, presides over a mysterious universe with an arcane mythology inhabited by a pale fox, shadowy twin beings and strange serpent-like creatures which the world has been trying to interpret ever since anthropologist Marcel Griaule first recorded his Conversations with Ogotemmêli in 1948. The Happy Few will retrace his journey to Mali in 2027 to witness the most sacred Dogon ceremony of all: the Sigui Festival, held once every sixty years following the eclipse of Sirius, the dog star. Related in a cycle of seven episodes in different locations over a period of seven years, the Dogon version of Paradise Lost is a divine comedy of gods and heroes telling of creation and destruction, seduction and original sin, punishment and wrath and the loss of immortality. Dante and Milton would have understood.

Dodon dancers in Tereli in Satimbe Masks:

The Dogon are strongly oriented toward harmony, which is reflected in many of their rituals. For instance, in one of their most important rituals, the women praise the men, the men thank the women, the young express appreciation for the old, and the old recognize the contributions of the young. Another example is the custom of elaborate greetings whenever one Dogon meets another. This custom is repeated over and over, throughout a Dogon village, all day.

During a greeting ritual, the person who has entered the contact answers a series of questions about his or her whole family, from the person who was already there. The answer is sewa, which means that everything is fine. Then the Dogon who has entered the contact repeats the ritual, asking the resident how his or her whole family is. Because the word sewa is so commonly repeated throughout a Dogon village, neighbouring peoples have dubbed the Dogon the sewa people.