Dance of the dead | Safari Interactive Magazine Blog.

Dance of the dead | Safari Interactive Magazine Blog..


On my trip to Mali I witnessed the dances of the Dogon masks, known throughout the world by anthropologists and art curators.

Dogon masks rank among the most respected within the world of tribal art collections and have influenced such Western 20th-century artists as Picasso and Braque, even the Cubist movement.

The masks bind the Dogon people to the celestial world of heaven (where the afterworld exists) and earth, which provides food, shelter and life. The dancers of the sirige mask are considered the most skilled. They use their teeth to balance the 20-foot high mask, which is carved from the limb of a single tree. Dancers swing the mask in sweeping motions to represent the arc of the sun.

The mask’s design, a straight line, serves to connect the worlds of the sun and earth through the conduit of the dancer and his body. Like all Dogon masks, the sirige belongs to the afterworld, the realm of where life and death meet.

The Dogon perform with their dancing masks to honor the passing of a respected elder. This Dama dance ceremony will often last for three days and involve dozens of dancers representing figures from the animal world, male and female powers, and the afterworld. Once the Dama dance has been performed, the aged bones of the elder are placed high in the windswept cliffs of the sacred caves for the dead, where the red mountains meet the sky in the little known land of the Dogon in southern Mali.

The skulls of the Dogon elders watch over a people barely hidden from a modern world just beginning to comprehend that Africa is where human time began.





Images Copyright: © Kyle Mijlof Photography

Categories: Africa | Leave a comment

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