Dogon Ceremonial Spoon or Ladle
Lébé is a Dogon religious, secret institution and primordial ancestor, who arose from a serpent.
Approx Age: 20th Century
Dimensions cm: 78 long x 15.5 wide
Ref. Number: 1540
A beautiful and large Dogon ceremonial spoon or ladle carved with two snakes overlapping each other. It has a tribal repair where it has sustained damage in the past, as you can see it has been executed very well. The snake represents ‘Lebe’ in Dogon mythology, Lebe is the reincarnation of the first Dogon ancestor who, resurrected in the form of a snake.
Provenance: Ex private UK collection
A ceremonial spoon originating from the Dogon people of Mali. Spoon such as this were used during big ceremonial feasts. Dogon artists mastered the art of carving impressive, large wooden spoons that are virtuoso works of sculpture. The handle of the spoon is always decorated and often is related to the form of Dogon mythology or ancestry. African art to tools enabled Africans to interact with their physical, social, and spiritual environments. This notion of functionality includes not just practical uses but also a host of symbolic or “transactional” purposes.
In the mythology of the Dogon people of West Africa, the god Amma, the supreme deity, created eight ancestors and eight families and organized human existence on earth. Lebe was the eighth ancestor and the first one to die. At the time, death had not yet come to humans.
Lebe, an old man, was instructed to die (or at least appear to die) and to allow himself to be buried. After Lebe did this, the seventh ancestor took the form of a snake, swallowed Lebe, and then vomited his bones. These were transformed into coloured stones that fell to earth and formed the shape of a body. The pattern and arrangement of the stones helped determine the nature of social relationships, particularly marriages. After Lebe was swallowed, all that was pure and good in the ancestors went into the stones, while everything impure was cast away. The stones also symbolized the life force of the ancestors, and Lebe’s death allowed this life force to be passed on to all human beings. Each year the Dogon people perform a special ritual in honour of Lebe’s sacrifice.
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