For The Dama Ritual Mali, Dogon people, early 20th century? Wood Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Milton Gross (72.259) Height: 31.1 cm Additional images may be viewed in Argus

For The Dama Ritual Mali, Dogon people, early 20th century?
Wood
Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Milton Gross (72.259)
Height: 31.1 cm
Additional images may be viewed in Argus

Guiding Questions

Why might a person wear a mask? When do you wear masks?

What kind of patterns or textures do you see in this mask?

About the Art

In traditional Dogon society, masked dances are performed at collective funeral ceremonies where several deceased people are memorialized at once. They are also held during special six-day-long death anniversary observances known as Dama. Dama rituals are held during the dry season by a village or group of villages every few years––13 years was the traditional average. Nowadays, however, they are performed more frequently for the benefit of visitors and tourists. In such cases they have lost some of their original meaning and traditional aspects.

While some masks have clear identifying characteristics, it is often difficult to know exactly what is being represented in a particular mask once it is taken out of context––such is the case with the Museum’s mask. 

Connections

Compare and contrast with Headcrest in Form of an Antelope.

Cultures all over the world use masks in rituals and ceremonies. Why do you think this might be? What different functions might masks serve? 

Additional Resources

Smithsonian National Museum of African Art: http://africa.si.edu 

Video of Dama from National Geographic