Dogon Door Lock

The Dogon door lock a wooden bolt  (ta koguru) used to secure the doors to houses, granaries, rooms holding sacred pieces, and some shrines.

Tribe: Dogon

Origin: Mali

Approx Age: Early 20th Century

Materials: Wood

Dimensions cm: 26 (tall) x 28

Ref. Number: 0343



Simple and traditional Dogon Door Lock of the Dogon tribe Mali. Consisting of two pieces of wood that show good signs of use. It has a metal trim with the locking system still in place, locking pins are also present, incised markings in a diamond formation cover the whole lock, together with a darken patina this lock at some time in its life would have been used either on a house door or more usually used as a means of keeping closed a granary.

Provenance: Ex German Collection


This simple and straight forward style of the Dogon door lock allows the door of either a home, granary sacred hut or shrine to be held closed keeping it safe and secure. Door locks found on granary doors give us a wonderful insight into the  symbolic use of animal and figurative imagery in an abstract way, The representational carvings of ancestors serve to keep spirits away and offer protection from worldly and unworldly sources of harm.

One such tradition is building granaries and houses for grain storage. Doors of these granaries are often adorned with impressive carvings of animals or people which serve as invocations of deities or spirits, or as symbols of status. Each door decorated and telling its own story through its depicted characters. The stored grain is then considered “safe” when it is guarded by the ancestors whose images are depicted on granary doors.

Many of the beautiful and elaborate Dogon doors , with their symbols of spiritual protection to keep safe a home or granary have equally impressive locks made with figures or animals making the lock as impressive as the door itself.

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

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