Dogon Crocodile Mask

The monumentality of this rare Dogon crocodile mask reflects the importance of this “primordial animal” in the Dogon mythology
Tribe: Dogon

Origin: Mali

Approx Age: Mid-later 20th Century

Materials: Wood, plant fibre

Dimensions cm: 68 long

Ref. Number: KNPC


A very rare and stunning Dogon crocodile mask is known as “Waka Kakada”. A mask which sits on the head, held in place with the woven plant fibre webbing to the rear of the head and sone as a string held by the mouth (both being present). Powerful open jaws with some remaining quills as teeth and preserved polychrome dotting and zig-zag decoration on the crest. A fantastic native repair under one eye. Custom made stand to display to its full potential.

Provenance: Ex-US Collection, K.Norton UK


In Dogon mythology, the crocodile closely related to the first being created on earth (Nommo) of which he is the servant, sometimes described as his messenger, and in which Marcel Griaule (God of Water, Interviews with Ogotemmeli, sees the symbol of the oldest known ancestor of the family.

It is the extraordinary crocodile mask type Waka Kakada, part of the Dama mask tradition. There are different interpretations for this type of mask; both the banishment of the fear of crocodiles and the fable that tells of it, when the Dogon had once strayed while wandering in the desert and were led by a crocodile to a water-bearing riverbed and thus saved. The mask served here both the worship of the spirit of the crocodile and the spirits of the water in general.

In the book “Masques dogons” (1938, p. 509) Griaule recounts the myth of the creation of this mask, which is worn horizontally in Ibi village: “As they were placing the fibres in the mud of a swamp to blacken them, the men of Touyogou caught sight of the crocodile who came habitually to dig up the fibres and eat them. The men killed the crocodile and carried it away. Later, they carved a mask in the image of the head, to protect the slayer and his lineage from the crocodile’s spirit.” This account reflects the reasons for the invention of all masks: to provide material sup¬port for the soul of any living being that dies, to protect it from injury.

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