Dogon Alter Figure and Ladder

Dogon altar figure and ladder with good signs of age and use.
Tribe: Dogon

Origin: Mali

Approx Age: Mid 20th Century

Materials: Wood

Dimensions cm: Figure 22. Ladder 33

Ref. Number: 1344 & 1345


A lovely styled Dogon altar figure and ladder, these have been paired as they are both consistent of being from the same shrine or altar, same age, wood and the encrusted patina are reflective of being in the same place when being libated, and both figures were collected together by the previous owner.

Provenance: Collected in situ 1970. Ex Lampevelden collection, Netherlands


Binu shrines or sanctuaries are separate structures built in the courtyard of the ginna. Each one contains an altar on which the wooden figures are found, leaning against the wall of the shrine. Small bowls, miniature ladders, iron hooks and bracelets, and L-shaped wooden domolo staffs are also placed in binu shrines. Shrine miniature ladders, these works replicate the form of the full-size versions, yet their purpose is spiritual rather than utilitarian. Along with pottery and figurines, miniature ladders were placed in a bowl on altars, where Dogon thought to have inherited the souls of specific ancestors would pour sacrificial offerings. The Dogon believe the ladders facilitate a spirit’s ability to reach his ancestor. In Dogon sacrificial practice, poured libations created a layered patina over the carved wood. The variety of patinas on these ladders, most likely consisting of mixtures of animal blood, minerals from the surrounding landscape, and millet gruel.

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