Dogon Ladder

A lovely old Dogon ladder from the ex collection of Seward Kennedy.
Tribe: Dogon

Origin: Mali

Approx Age: Early 20th Century

Materials: Wood

Dimensions cm: 106

Ref. Number: 0972




A lovely old Dogon ladder from the ex-collection of Seward Kennedy. This early 20th-century ladder has a stunning patina from years of use, although the Dogon are known for the large ladders to gain access to granaries and roof tops they are also used like this to get from one level to another, this has 4 treads but the top two have been used more predominantly.  A custom-made stand is also included.

Provenance: Ex Seward Kennedy Collection.



While many Dogon objects and artefacts reference the stars above, one that more subtly connects earth and heaven is the ladder. Dogon ladders are used today just as they were hundreds of years ago – to access the roofs of huts, high granary doors and cliff dwellings. Carved from a solid piece of wood with a series of notched footholds, they seem to always split at the top in an appealing “Y” form. They are everyday utilitarian, functional objects, old yet surprisingly modern in form and feeling. Tall or short, they are visually compelling works of art – powerful icons of ascension whether you are climbing in this world or beyond.

The Dogon made many different items for utilitarian and practical use, they are very well known for the ladders they made, the elaborately carved doors, over eighty different styled masks and a large number (unknown) tribal figures for ceremony and ancestor worship for different cults. This Dogon grain hut in Mali is owned by a tribal hunter as indicated by the items hanging from the outside. The pointed roof indicates that it is male owned. A female owned grain hut has a flat roof. A traditionally carved ladder leans against the hut.

Seward Kennedy assembled his ‘cabinet of curiosities’ over a period of more than six decades, seeking out treasures from across the world, which came to layer the surfaces of his residences in London, Paris and New York City. Kennedy, who was a successful lawyer, rejected the title ‘collector’, instead seeing himself as a custodian of remarkable objects to which after he died Christie’s auction house London sold off a majority of his collection. Seward Kennedy (1925-2015)

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