Dogon Door Lock Ta Koguru

Ex collection of Emile Robyn (Brussels, Belgium). lovely and delicately carved item was collected by Jérôme Robyn in the early 1940’s
Tribe: Dogon

Origin: Mali

Approx Age: 1920’s

Materials: Wood, iron

Dimensions cm: 27 tall x 30 wide

Ref. Number: 0842



A wonderful and simplistic Dogon door lock Ta Koguru from the ex private collection of African art of Emile Robyn (Brussels, Belgium). It was Emile’s grandfather, Abel Robyn, who started the African art collection in 1850. This collection has been transmitted over three generations. When Abel died in 1895, his son, Jérôme Robyn, inherited the collection, which he continued to increase until his death in 1968. Emile Robyn inherited from his father and continued to extend this magnificent collection as his purchases were made only by renowned galleries, auctioneers or collectors. Many of the pieces in this collection were presented at events such as “Parcours des Mondes” in Paris.

This lovely and delicately carved item was collected by Jérôme Robyn in the early 1940’s and was made approximately 20 years previous to collecting in situ in Bamako, Mali.


The Dogon peoples used wooden bolt locks (ta koguru) to secure the doors to houses, interior rooms, granaries, and some shrines. This type of lock was introduced to sub-Saharan Africa with the spread of Islam from the Near East and North Africa. The Bamana and Dogon peoples in Mali especially made them into works of art. The lock consists of three separate pieces: the vertical beam (ta koro); the crossbeam (ta dagu) that slides into a cut-out rectangle in the back of the vertical beam, which is furnished with metal prongs; and a toothbrush-like key (ta i) that slides into a hollowed out part of the crossbeam. The key is outfitted with metal prongs that match those in the vertical beam. A hole bored into the door frame opposite the mounted lock accommodates the rounded or tapered end of the horizontal beam. When the horizontal beam is pushed into this hole, the metal prongs of the vertical beam fall into the matching holes of the horizontal beam. To unlock the door, the dangling prongs of the vertical beam are pushed upward.

Each lock is given a name in accordance with its message, person, myth, or any anecdote referred to. Door locks were a prized gift for young brides, and passed down from generation to generation.


The Arts of Africa at the Dallas Museum of Art..

Imperato, Pascal James. “Dogon Door Locks.” African Arts

Griaule, Marcel. Conversations with Ogotemmeli. London: Oxford University Press.

Calame-Griaule, in Bilot, Alain, Michel Bohbot, Geneviéve Calame-Griaule, and Francine NDiaye, eds. Serrures du pays Dogon. Paris: Adam Biro, 2003.

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