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Dogon masks at the turn of the millennium

Creators:Richards, Polly

Commissioned article for an exhibition catalogue

This research focuses on the evolving masks and masquerades of the Dogon people of Mali. Richards’ interest in Dogon masquerade stems from her training as a theatre designer and her involvement in the masquerade of the Notting-Hill Carnival. The research addresses the development of mask styles in detail, and questions how such developments are viewed locally and seeks to find whether changes in style can be usefully paralleled with cultural progress or decline.

To date, western literature has been limited concerning the changes in the formal qualities of Dogon masks. Authors Griaule (1930) and Imperato (1971) observed change as evidence of decline and, more recently, Doquet (1999) identified what she saw to be a creative stagnation in their masking tradition. In the Dogon region today, with the annual exodus of young men to cities seeking work, the rapid growth of tourism, changes contingent upon colonial and post-colonial governments and most importantly, with the penetration of Christianity and Islam, masquerade practices continue to thrive.

Building upon fieldwork undertaken by Richards in Mali, during five visits between 1994-2000, which coincided with the dry season in which the post-burial rites associated with masquerade usually occur, the research process included a formal analysis of more than 200 masks, the observation and recording of masquerades throughout the region and a parallel study of the masks collected by Griaule (currently held by the Quai Branly museum, Paris). Interviews were conducted with mask makers, performers and audiences for whom these masquerades were intended, transcribed when possible in Dogon and French. This research and resulting article provides an in-depth comparison with masks documented by Marcel Griaule in the 1930s.

Type of Research:Article
Your affiliations with UAL:Colleges > Wimbledon College of Art
Colleges > Wimbledon College of Art
Date:31 January 2004
ID Code:1841
Deposited On:03 Dec 2009 22:36
Last Modified:27 Apr 2011 15:01
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