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UAL Research Online

What's in a Dogon Mask?

Richards, Polly (2006) What's in a Dogon Mask? In: Res: Anthropology and Aesthetics Series. Harvard University Press, pp. 92-114. ISBN 0873657675

Type of Research: Book Section
Creators: Richards, Polly

This research focuses on the ontological status of masks and masquerades of the Dogon people of Central Mali. Despite numerous publications concerned with Dogon masks, it has never been entirely clear what in fact masks are to Dogon people, other than bundles of fibres, leaves, or blocks of wood. Throughout ‘Masques Dogons’, Griaule referred to ‘nyama’, an innate energy or ‘imperishable force’ (Griaule 1938 b:46) with which Dogon masks are possessed. However, he failed to fully explore this concept with regard to the range of masks that exist and to clarify how it functions to create the ‘power’ attributed to Dogon masks. In this research, Richards explores the ontological status of both imina and sanuguroy masks in the context in which they appear and further examines the relationship between these two mask categories as perceived by Dogon people. This article aims to reveal the function of the mask within the context of the dama and agu rites where it provides the elaborate public ‘framing’ of events that occur with greater privacy at the core of the ritual at mask and village altars.

Fieldwork in the Dogon region was conducted during five visits between 1994-2000, each visit coinciding with the dry season in which the post-burial rites associated with masquerade usually occur. Using a formal analysis of more than 200 masks and masquerades observed and recorded throughout the Dogon region and a parallel study of masks collected by Griaule as currently held by the Quai Branly museum in Paris, interviews were conducted simultaneously during this period with mask makers, performers and audiences for whom these masquerades were intended and were transcribed when possible in Dogon and in French.

Keywords/subjects not otherwise listed: RAE2008 UoA63
Publisher/Broadcaster/Company: Harvard University Press
Your affiliations with UAL: Other Affiliations > RAE 2008
Colleges > Wimbledon College of Arts
Date: 2006
Date Deposited: 27 Nov 2009 00:26
Last Modified: 22 Jul 2011 12:17
Item ID: 1842
URI: https://ualresearchonline.arts.ac.uk/id/eprint/1842

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