Dogon Shrine or Spirit Ladder

Dogon shrine ladders or spirit ladders were for the deceased to climb to reach their ancestors.

Dogon Shrine ladder

Tribe: Dogon

Origin: Mali

Approx Age: Late 19th-early 20th Century

Materials: Wood

Dimensions cm: 37 tall not including the stand.

Ref. Number: 1343


Dogon shrine ladders or also known as spirit ladders. This item has come from a shrine and shows evidence of ritual libation leaving an encrusted patina, this also comes with its own black metal display stand. This particular shrine ladder has a beautiful oily and encrusted patina.

Provenance: Collected in situ 1970. Ex Lampevelden collection, Netherlands.

Exhibited at Tribal Art London 2022


Dogon shrine or spirit ladders were for the deceased to climb to reach their ancestors. Binu shrines or sanctuaries are separate structures built in the courtyard of the ginna. Each one contains an altar on which the wooden figures are found, leaning against the wall of the shrine. Small bowls, miniature ladders, iron hooks and bracelets, and L-shaped wooden domolo staffs are also placed in binu shrines. Shrine miniature ladder, these works replicate the form of the full-size versions, yet their purpose is spiritual rather than utilitarian. Along with pottery and figurines, miniature ladders were placed in a bowl on altars, where the Dogon believed to have inherited the souls of specific ancestors would pour sacrificial offerings.

The Dogon believed the ladders facilitate a spirit’s ability to reach his ancestor. In the Dogon’s sacrificial practice, poured libations created a layered patina over the carved wood. The variety of patinas on these ladders, most likely consisting of mixtures of animal blood, minerals from the surrounding landscape, and millet gruel.

dogon ginna<br />

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