Dogon Granary Door

Dogon granary door collected by Jean-François Maurel in 1958.
Tribe: Dogon

Origin: Mali

Approx Age: later 19th – early 20th Century

Materials: Wood, iron fixings

Dimensions cm: 54 tall (peg to peg) x 41 wide

Ref. Number: 0358

£1200.00 RESERVED


A fantastic and very old Dogon granary door was collected by Jean-François Maurel in 1958. J.F.Maurel was a famous archivist and palaeographer of Africa early 20th Century but sadly died on March 18, 2015. This is just one of many beautiful items he had collected over his years in Africa. This is a stunning and old piece of art, its estimation is dating back to the 19th Century. It is very weathered and worn and a stress crack has been repaired and made stable by iron bindings/nails.

Provenance: Jean-François Maurel, France (1927-2015)


The granary door lock on this door (called ta koguru) is carved with a couple of nommo figures. These symbolize a strong magic and spiritual force. This force is then, according to beliefs’ animists of Dogon, imparted to the door lock. In the Dogon myth of the creation of the Earth, the amma god bore a being figure known as nommo (the nommo anagonno, symbolized by a fish). This nommo gave birth to four couples of nommo, considered as the eight ancestors of the mankind (unum) and the four elements.

These small doors / shutters are placed midway up the granary wall. It provided access, throughout the year following harvests, to the goods stored inside (millet, sorghum, rice, corn). The Dogon granaries are narrow, four-sided or round, with a structure made of wood and covered with cob, and generally a thatch roof or a terrace roof (see pictures).

Archaeological evidence suggests men have lived on the cliffs for over 2,000 years. Cultures whose relics have been dated are the pygmy Toloy people in the 3rd to 2nd centuries BC, and later, between the 11th and 15th centuries, the Tellem who lived in caves cut into the cliffs where they left many artifacts still unearthed by local people. They were pushed out around 1490 by the Dogons from the south-west (or south-east) perhaps fleeing slave raids by Songhai, Fulani and Mossi tribesmen. They came in four clans, the Dyon, Ono, Arou and Domno and spread over the plateau, the escarpment and the plains of the Séno-Gondo, living on top of or at the foot of the cliffs. They divided into small village communities, each member having a village surname shared by every inhabitant. Dogon buildings are a unique architecture of sculptural mud-built huts, altars, distinctive tapering granaries for each sex, each with a pointed cap of thatch, and meeting houses (Diakite, 1988; Hollyman & van Beek, 2001).

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