Old Tellem Figure, Dogon, Mali
H: 13,5 cm (5,3″) (incl. base)
Densely eroded wood with gray tonality
This small, fine, old Dogon Tellem represents a male standing figure and originates from the village Tireli built on rocky escarpment of Bandiagara in Mali.
Dogon sculpture is intimately linked with spiritual beliefs related to ancestors, both real ancestors and mythic Nommo spirits (primordial ancestors created by the central god, Amma). Figures are made to house the spirits of deceased family members and are placed in family shrines, and masks are used to drive away the spirits of the deceased at the end of the mourning period. About 80 mask types have been developed, and the masks are worn by young adult members of Awa; the men’s masking association.
The Dogons, who from an early date have occupied the cliffs of Bandiagara in Mali, can count ten centuries of existence. In this rugged landscape, they have built their shelters and their sanctuaries watched over by their fascinating guardians of sculpted wood; the protectors of the community. Myth is an integral part of their lives. It dictates the rhythm of their daily lives, and is embedded in their beliefs and rituals. It also reveals the mystery of their origins.
The Bandiagara site is an outstanding landscape of cliffs and sandy plateaux with some beautiful architecture (houses, granaries, altars, sanctuaries and Togu Na, or communal meeting-places). Several age-old social traditions live on in the region (masks, feasts, rituals, and ceremonies involving ancestor worship). The geological, archaeological and ethnological interest, together with the landscape, make the Bandiagara plateau one of West Africa’s most impressive sites.
Found in the city Tireli in Bandigare by recognized Swedish art collector in 1998. It is assessed to be old; from the beginning of the 20th century.