African art > African Jar > Dogon Altar
Dogon Caryatids Cup (N° 19326)
Harvested in the 1950s by Monsieur Arnaud, accompanying Alain Bilot,
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renowned collector of Dogon art during study stays in Mali.
Four figures of ancestors or chiefs of lineage, whose feet disappear in a circular tray symbolizing the axis of the world, support a hollowed out cup. The latter is slightly off-center. The hands of the figures rest on their knees, and two of them wear masks. Scabby deposits bear witness to libatory rites. Rough, crusty surface.
Sculpted for the most part on commission by a family, Dogon statues can also be the object of worship by the entire community when they commemorate, for example, the founding of the village. However, their functions remain little known. The role of sculpted figures was generally to protect or heal the sick. Libations and sacrifices were therefore dedicated to them.
Alongside Islam, Dogon religious rites were organized around four main cults: the Lebe, relating to fertility, under the spiritual authority of the Hogon; the Wagem, the cult of ancestors under the authority of the patriarch; the Binu invoking the spirit world and led by the Binu priest; and the society of masks concerning funerals.
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