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DOGON DOOR, MALI

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The Dogon people of Mali are among the oldest surviving African cultures despite the fact that throughout their existence more powerful neighbours have threatened them. For protection, until about 300 years ago the Dogon built their villages near or in the famous Bandiagara cliffs. They have thus been nicknamed the Hill, Cliff and Mountain people.

The Dogon people of Mali are known the world over for their creation of Dogon Doors. The doors have various uses in their society; first as the physical closure to their granaries. Secondly they are created and exchanged as gifts for birthdays, marriages, tokens of luck and rites of passage bequests. Thirdly, when used as a part of the architecture, as a door or shutter, in a private abode, through the use of symbols they are used to describe the occupation of the person or that person’s persona or status in the village. Lastly it served as a sign to taxpayers, letting them know which form of payment was accepted in the adjoining building.

Symbolic Styling
  • The symbolic styling of the doors can vary. Pairs of breasts, representing femininity and fertility are usually found.
  • A herringbone pattern can often be found running down the sides of the door representing the vibration of water and light.
  • The door latch is surmounted by one or two larger figures who are members of the famed founding primordial couple.
  • Other themes include but are not limited to village scenes, warriors on horseback, animal figures, gecko lizards which represent luck, large crocodiles which denote power and rows and rows of raised Dogon ancestor figures that all resemble each other.

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