Dogon Bronze Female Figurine Ornament, Mali
This is a smooth uncoated bronze figurine depicting a kneeling female figure with long slim sinuous limbs and a braided hairstyle on top of her head. Her body posture shows the figure holding her hands around both feet, arched back and a face looking straight ahead – a gesture which has been open for interpretation but is most commonly accepted to be echoing a certain moment in the Dogon Bukle Priests’ initiation ceremony. On the back of the figure, there is a small hook for hanging it around the neck.
The Dogon have survived for centuries, withstanding constant slave raiding parties of the successive empires of Ghana, the Sonrai, the Mossi, the Sao, the Fulani, and the Muslims from the north. Consequently, the Dogon have evolved a keen sense of cultural preservation and an ability to withstand outside forces of change.
Ritual is an integral part of the Dogon culture. Their cultural rites reflect awareness of the necessary harmony between the human spirits. The Dogon are an ancient people situated in Mali, West Africa. They have a complex divination system. The Hogon (spiritual elder) performs a ritual, which involves drawing grids and symbols in the sand at dusk. The Hogon leaves an offering of millet, milk and peanuts for the sacred sand fox. He returns in the morning to see if the offerings are accepted and that the ritual has been carried out successfully. If so he can interpret the answer to his questions from the fox’s footprints left behind from the night before.
Today, some 300,000 Dogon live hidden in the mysterious Bandiagara Cliffs of southern Mali, West Africa, along a roughly 125-mile-long (200-kilometer) swath of land against the Badiagara Cliffs. Many live among 700 or so small villages.
Condition: Smooth, uncoated surface, cast figure. No nicks or defects in the casting.
Age: 19th to mid-20th century.
Provenance: The CO Hultén Collection, Sweden. Acquired in the 1950s.
LaGamma, Alisa. Art and Oracle: African Art and Rituals of Divination. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000, pp. 24–25.
Peek, Philip M. “Couples of Doubles? Representations of Twins in the Arts of Africa.” In African Arts vol. 41, no. 1, 2008, pp. 14-23 (see especially pp. 19-20).