Dogon Nommo Ancestor Figure
- Tribe: Dogon
- Origin: Mali
- Approx Age: early - mid 20th century
- Materials: wood
- Dimensions cm: 164 x 29
- Ref. Number: M0583
A stunning Dogon Nommo Ancestor plank figure estimated early – mid 20th Century. These pieces are very rare to find, this piece was found in a village near Bamako, a very well used tribal hunter within the African art world. These figures are pushed in the ground to make them stand and also left lying flat on the ground, which is obviously been done by the way it looks at the base and the back of this figure. These are very tall for Dogon figures, standing 164 cm tall.
The Nommo are ancestral spirits (sometimes referred to as deities) worshipped by the Dogon tribe of Mali. The word Nommos is derived from a Dogon word meaning, “to make one drink,” The Nommos are usually described as amphibious, hermaphroditic, fish-like creatures. Folk art depictions of the Nommos show creatures with humanoid upper torsos, legs/feet, and a fish-like lower torso and tail. The Nommos are also referred to as “Masters of the Water”, “the Monitors”, and “the Teachers”. Nommo can be a proper name of an individual, or can refer to the group of spirits as a whole. (Wikipedia)
Dogon interpretation of the Nommos.
A figure with raised arms is one of the most common types of Dogon sculpture. This gesture can be found on relatively naturalistic Dogon figures as well as on those that have been transformed into arrangements of geometric shapes, like this example. Here the artist has created a double image – a figure with raised arms carved in relief on a highly abstract, plank-like figure that also has raised arms.
The plank figure tapers to a point at the bottom, presumably because they lean against a wall or flat on the ground, as in altars dedicated to the deceased family members and binu, ‘immortal’ ancestors revered by an entire clan.
Flat plank figures like this are not uncommon in Dogon art. The flat portion may extend the full length of the figure, or may end above the hips.
Figures in the form of planks have been found in the Tellem caves, which indicates that the motif may be quite old. However, some of the most full-volumed, naturalistic Dogon sculptures, stylistically opposed to the plank figures, also seem to be among the oldest, suggesting once again that style is not a useful factor in determining the age of a Dogon sculpture.
Info from: Met Museum
This is a famous plank figure from Quai Branly Museum
Mali, Bandiagara Plateau
Acquired by the French state through the sponsorship of AXA (with the support of Helen and Philippe Leloup)
Carved from a single block of wood, this masterpiece of African art would be a king in its feeder breasts on both sides of the navel, two characters carved in high relief tonde indicate their position, respect and allegiance