Dogon granary door
These doors protected the window-like opening into each family's grain storage building, and used a simple
sliding door lock. Primordial beings, ancestors, Kanaga masks, sun lizards and scenes of life symbolically
served to protect the entrance by making it sacrosanct. The low reliefs are carved on several panels, held
together by iron staples.

I currently do not have a Dogon granary door in my collection

Below are some examples for reference
Sotheby's - New York
African, Oceanic and Pre-Columbian Art
Auction Date : May 12, 2005

Lot 29 :  A DOGON DOOR

comprised of two panels affixed at the center, one side with knobs for hinges, carved overall in
high relief with a series of abstract figures in four tiers, with one larger figure of geometric form
on the left side; aged dark brown patina.

J. J. Klejman, New York, 1968
Helen W. Benjamin, New York
By descent through the family

Cf. Homberger ((ed.) 1995:55) for a related granary door in the collection of the Rietberg
Museum, Zurich, Inv. Nr. RAF 260. Both doors show rows of repeating ancestor figures, with
particular attention to the angular style of the bodies supporting a dramatically protruding
triangular head on each. Unusual for Dogon doors, the offered lot depicts a significantly larger
ancestor figure of similar style carved of the same piece of wood in the location one normally
finds the doorlock.

height 28in. by width 17in. 71cm by 43.5cm

$ 7,000 - $ 10,000
Sotheby's - New York
African, Oceanic and Pre-Columbian Art
Auction Date : May 12, 2005


of rectangular form, with a knob for the hinge, the large central crocodile carved in high relief
with a smaller crocodile at the abdomen and surrounded by eight figures and a pair of breasts;
exceptionally fine weathered patina.


J. J. Klejman, New York, 1967
Helen W. Benjamin, New York
By descent through the family

Cf. Ezra (1988: 93, figure 44) for a closely related shutter in the collection of the Metropolitan
Museum of Art, formerly in the Lester Wunderman Collection. The exact symbolism of the
composition is unknown, but the granary itself is often associated with the celestial ark of
origins and creation among the Dogon. The door itself can be likened to a heartbeat with its
opening and closing signalling the vitality of the granary to Dogon life.

height 31 in. by width 17 in. 79cm by 43cm

$ 10,000 - $ 15,000
Other examples
Granary door

Dogon peoples, Mali
Height 69 cm (27 1/4 in.)
Collection of Arnold and Joanne Syrop

Private collection, Europe
Arnold and Joanne Syrop

Photograph by
Franko Khoury

Mali, Burkina Faso

The 400,000 Dogon live 180 miles south of Timbuktu on the cliffs of Bandiagara, which dominate the plains
for over 150 miles. They speak approximately 120 dialects, many of which are not mutually comprehensible.
At first hunters, now on their small fields they cultivate millet, sorghum, wheat, and onion. The millet is stored
in high quadrangular granaries around which they build their houses. Because of the difficult approach to
these regions and the aridity of the climate, the Dogon have been isolated and hence were able to conserve
their ancient religious habits and ways of making the necessary implements, their carvings.

Dogon social and religious organizations are closely interlinked and out of this arose principal cults, which
accounts for the richness and diversity of Dogon culture and art.  The clans are subdivided onto lineages,
overseen by the patriarch, guardian of the clan’s ancestral shrine and officiant at the totemic animal cult.
Beside this hierarchical system of consanguinity, male and female associations are entrusted with the
initiations that take place by age group, corresponding to groups of newly circumcised or excised boys or
girls. The Dogon believe these operations remove the female element from males and vice versa.
Circumcision thus creates a wholly male or female person prepared to assume an adult role. The members of
an age group owe one another assistance until the day they die. Initiation of boys begins after their
circumcision, with the teaching of the myths annotated by drawings and paintings. The young boys will learn
the place of humans in nature, society, and the universe. In the Dogon pantheon Amma appears as the
original creator of all the forces of the universe and of his descendant Lebe, the god of plant rebirth. The first
Dogon primordial ancestors, called Nommo, were bisexual water gods. They were created in heaven by the
creator god Amma and descended from heaven to earth in an ark. The Nommo founded the eight Dogon
lineages and introduced weaving, smithing, and agriculture to their human descendants.

For these various cults the hogon is both priest and political chief of the village. He is also in charge of the
cult of lebe, the mythical serpent. Assisted by the blacksmith, he presides over agrarian ceremonies. The
smiths and woodcarvers, who form a separate caste, transmit their profession by heredity. They may only
marry within their own caste. Women are in charge of pottery making.

Dogon art is extremely versatile, although common stylistic characteristics – such as a tendency towards
stylization – are apparent on the statues. Their art deals with the myths whose complex ensemble regulates
the life of the individual. The sculptures are preserved in innumerable sites of worship, personal or family
altars, altars for rain, altars to protect hunters, in market. As a general characterization of Dogon statues, one
could say that they render the human body in a simplified way, reducing it to its essentials. Some are
extremely elongated with emphasis on geometric forms. The subjective impression is one of immobility with a
mysterious sense of a solemn gravity and serene majesty, although conveying at the same time a latent
movement. Dogon sculpture recreates the hermaphroditic silhouettes of the Tellem, featuring raised arms
and a thick patina made of blood and millet beer. The four Nommo couples, the mythical ancestors born of
the god Amma, ornament stools, pillars or men’s meeting houses, door locks, and granary doors. The
primordial couple is represented sitting on a stool, the base of which depicts the earth while the upper
surface represents the sky; the two are interconnected by the Nommo. The seated female figures, their
hands on their abdomen, are linked to the fertility cult, incarnating the first ancestor who died in childbirth,
and are the object of offerings of food and sacrifices by women who are expecting a child. Kneeling statues of
protective spirits are placed at the head of the dead to absorb their spiritual strength and to be their
intermediaries with the world of the dead, into which they accompany the deceased before once again being
placed on the shrines of the ancestors. Horsemen are remainders of the fact that, according to myth, the
horse was the first animal present on earth. The Dogon style has evolved into a kind of cubism: ovoid head,
squared shoulders, tapered extremities, pointed breasts, forearms, and thighs on a parallel plane, hairdos
stylized by three or four incised lines. Dogon sculptures serve as a physical medium in initiations and as an
explanation of the world. They serve to transmit an understanding to the initiated, who will decipher the statue
according to the level of their knowledge. Carved animal figures, such as dogs and ostriches, are placed on
village foundation altars to commemorate sacrificed animals, while granary doors, stools and house posts are
also adorned with figures and symbols.

There are nearly eighty styles of masks, but their basic characteristic is great boldness in the use of
geometric shapes, independent of the various animals they are supposed to represent. The structure of a
large number of masks is based on the interplay of vertical and horizontal lines and shapes. Another large
group has triangular, conic shapes. All masks have large geometric eyes and stylized features. The masks
are often polychrome, but on many the color is lost; after the ceremonies they were left on the ground and
quickly deteriorated because of termites and other conditions. The Dogon continue an ancient masquerading
tradition, which commemorates the origin of death. According to their myths, death came into the world as a
result of primeval man’s transgressions against the divine order. Dama memorial ceremonies are held to
accompany the dead into the ancestral realm and restore order to the universe. The performance of
masqueraders – sometimes as many as 400 – at these ceremonies is considered absolutely necessary. In
the case of the dama, the timing, types of masks involved, and other ritual elements are often specific to one
or two villages and may not resemble those seen in locations only several miles distant. The masks also
appear during baga-bundo rites performed by small numbers of masqueraders before the burial of a male
Dogon. Dogon masks evoke the form of animals associated with their mythology, yet their significance is only
understood by the highest ranking cult members whose role is to explain the meaning of each mask to a
captivated audience.