"Dogon Ancestor Figure - Mali - First Half Of The 20th Century"This character presents the Dogon characteristics: straight stature, rigid head bearing, the head recognizable by a "helmet" treatment, flat arms, hands on knees. The half-closed mouth is about to speak. In Dogon statuary the bodies are worked on the basis of right angles. However, the character arches his body slightly backwards, bringing a discreet dynamic. The goatee counterbalances the volume of the neck. Small discreet serrated scarifications on the arms correspond to those of the goatee. The geometric structure of the stool seen from the back evokes an inverted saber handle.
The wood is very oxidized, the black patina patina has multiple nuances. On the head of fine crusty remains of sacrificial coating.
Shocks, wear, cracks on the chest, head. These elements place the sculpture in the first half of the 20th century.
The wooden statues of the Dogons were first mentioned by the military explorer Louis Desplagnes (1871-1914) after his explorations in Bandiagara. He designates them under their Dogon name of "dedegue" and indicates that they represent the Dogon gods. According to Desplagnes, in case of drought or other calamity, the statue of the god was taken outside, and it was exhibited on the roof of the sanctuary, adorned with jewels and dressed in clothing. According to the research of the anthropologist Germaine Dieterlen (1903-99), the statuettes with human resemblance were made by the Dogons in order to serve as receptacles for the soul "kikuni say" and the vital force "nyama" of the dead . The slightly protruding navel animates the smooth surface of the torso.
These statues were part of the ancestral altar or "waguem". The altars were arranged differently depending on the importance of the deceased and his rank in Dogon society. They were housed in special huts ("ginna") that were first built when a new village or hamlet was founded. There was the vase of the founding ancestor of the tribe as well as his male ancestors.
Ancestor altars were also worshiped for other reasons than simply housing the souls of the tribe's dead. Dieterlen mentions the prayers addressed to them during collective ceremonies to obtain rain or a fruitful hunt, to ward off epidemics, to resolve quarrels between members of the same family or the same tribe.