| ||The Dogon People have three principal cults to support their belief system one of the most important being the Awa cult whose members dance with ornate carved and painted masks during both funeral and death anniversary ceremonies called Dama. These masks represent some of the animals that inhabit the regions where the Dogon live and hunt. They include antelopes, hares, lions, hyenas, and monkeys, there are also 'dannana' masks which represent the Dogon hunters. This antique Dogon 'TARA' Mask represents a Hyena and is extremely old showing great paint pigment and patina. This beautifully primal tribal mask has a custom made metal display stand which is included with this piece. This Hyena mask is much older then most Dama masks available today. Not including the stand this mask measures 13 inches long by 5 inches wide and 4.5 inches deep. |
The religious beliefs of the Dogon People of Mali, Africa are enormously complex. Dogon religion is primarily centered around the worship of their ancestors and the spirits whom the Dogon People encountered when they migrated from their ancestral homelands to the Bandiagara Cliffs which are 180 miles south of Timbuktu where they reside today. In the Dogon belief system Amma appears as the original creator of all the forces of the universe and Amma's descendant Lebe is the god of plant rebirth. The first Dogon primordial ancestors are belived to be spirits or deities and are called the 'Nommo' by the Dogon. The word Nommo is derived from a Dogon word meaning, "to make one drink," The Nommos are usually described as amphibious, hermaphroditic, fish-like creatures. Folk art depictions of the Nommos show creatures with humanoid upper torsos, with legs and feet, and a fish-like lower torso with a fish tail. The Nommos are also referred to as “Masters of the Water”, “the Monitors”, and "the Teachers". The Dogon believe that the Nommos were inhabitants of a world circling the star Sirius. The Nommos descended from the sky in an ark like vessel accompanied by fire and thunder, and upon their arrival, the Nommos created a reservoir of water and subsequently dove into the water. The Nommo founded the eight Dogon lineages and introduced astrology, weaving, metal smithing, and agriculture to their human descendants. Having been primarily hunters the Dogon slowly begain to turn to farming on small fields where they cultivate millet, sorghum, wheat, and onion.
There are three principal cults among the Dogon; the Awa, Lebe and Binu. The Awa is the cult of the dead and the members of the Awa cult dance with ornate carved and painted masks during both funeral and death anniversary ceremonies. There are 80 different types of ritual masks among the Dogon and their iconographic messages go beyond the aesthetic, into the realm of religion and philosophy. These masks represent some of the animals that inhabit the regions where the Dogon live and hunt. They include antelopes, hares, lions, hyenas, cows, birds and monkeys, there are also 'dannana' masks which represent the Dogon hunters. The primary role of the Awa dance ceremonies which are collective funerals called Dama is to lead souls of the deceased to their final resting place in in the world of spirit and the family altars and to consecrate their passage into the ancestor realm. Dama are held every two or three years, and are to honor the people who have died since the last Dama.