Dogon Kutogolo Altar

The black iron of the head represents the cult of the Binu, one of the four great cults of the Dogon cosmogony that refers to the origin of the settling on the cliff.

Dogon Shrine Figure

Tribe: Dogon

Origin: Mali

Approx Age: 1960 or before

Materials: Earth Stone Iron

Dimensions cm: 26 x 16 x 17

Ref. Number: 1007


Rare Dogon Kutogolo altar, these individual altars are used to strengthen the “NYAMA” vital force of their owners, they are made of Earth and stone at the base which symbolize the lower world of ancestors then there are one or two statuettes in wood that represent the living in the intermediate world. Then black irons at the top of the altar, which represent the superior world of the spirits of the gods.

Ptovenance: Ex-Serge Maurin, France. Ex-Farafi Gallery, France


The Kutogolo altars are primarily the property of twins and are a very prestigious item that also plays a role in very specific funeral ceremonies. 
The black iron of the head represents the cult of the Binu, one of the four great cults of the Dogon cosmogony that refers to the origin of the settling on the cliff.
A very rare ethnographic piece which the previous owner collected in situ from the family “Keita”, a dignitary of the Kamablon in the Mandé region of the Dogon country.

The owner would leave this stored in the Ginna, the house of the patriarch, its role consists in protecting and reinforcing the “Nyama”, the vital energy of the residents; with precise criteria, the Kutogolo however always differs thanks to the talent of these sculptors. The irons planted in the heads of the figures and the stone itself are named “Nekke Fin” or cloud hooks, these symbolise the Nommo ancestors. It receives offerings based on crushed millet and sacrificial blood, creating a crusty patina to it.

The Binu shrine :

Several patrilineages make up a clan. Clan leadership belongs to the Binu priest. His mission consists in maintaining harmony between supernatural forces of the bush and clan members. They will call on him for all kinds of problems of a mystical nature (unexplained diseases, divination, etc …). Whereas the responsibilities of the Ginna Banga are transmitted through succession, those of the Binu priest are acquired in a very different manner :

The Binu is a supernatural and protective being that manifests itself to an individual in the form of an animal. Whilst walking through the bush, this individual will be given an object, such as a stone, as a sign of alliance (Duge). Ethnographic literature has it that the discovery of the Duge by the person in question is proof of his ability to communicate with the spirit world and that consequently, it is his duty to assume responsibility as Binu priest. From there on, the new priest will wear the Duge in the form of a necklace. But in reality, the Duge is not just a stone found in the bush by a person in a trancelike state. It is rather the necklace itself which on the death of the priest, is hidden by family members until the day it is rediscovered by his successor. One says that the Binu “sleeps” until the day the Duge is rediscovered. Only one out of the three existing Binu’s in Ogol-Da was active in early 2006.


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