You are on page 1of 35

Dogon people

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Dogon people

Dogon people, Mali

Total population

400,000 to 800,000

Regions with significant populations Mali[1] Burkina Faso[1] Languages

Dogon languages

The Dogon are an ethnic group living in the central plateau region of Mali, south of theNiger bend near the city of Bandiagara in the Mopti region. The population numbers between 400,000 and 800,000[1] The Dogon are best known for their religious traditions, their mask dances, wooden sculpture and their architecture. The past century has seen significant changes in the social

organization, material culture and beliefs of the Dogon, partly because Dogon country is one of Mali's major tourist attractions.

• • • o o o • • • • • o o o •

1 Geography and history 2 Dogon art 3 Culture and religion 3.1 Circumcision 3.2 Funeral Masquerade 3.3 Sects 4 Dogon villages 5 Languages 6 Dogon and Sirius 7 Footnotes 8 References 8.1 People 8.2 Language 8.3 Art

9 External links


and history

The Bandiagara Cliffs

The principal Dogon area is bisected by theBandiagara Escarpment, a sandstone cliff of up to 500m (1,640 ft) high, stretching about 150 km (almost 100 miles). To the southeast of the cliff, the sandy Séno-Gondo Plains are found, and northwest of the cliff are the Bandiagara Highlands. Historically, Dogon villages were established in the Bandiagara area in consequence of the Dogon people's

collective refusal to convert to Islam a thousand years ago.[2] Dogon insecurity in the face of these historical pressures caused them to locate their villages in defensible positions along the walls of the escarpment. The other factor influencing their choice of settlement location is water. The Niger River is nearby and in the sandstone rock, a rivulet runs at the foot of the cliff at the lowest point of the area during the wet season. Among the Dogon several oral traditions have been recorded as to their origin. One relates to their coming from Mande, located to the southwest of the Bandiagara escarpment near Bamako. According to this oral tradition, the first Dogon settlement was established in the extreme southwest of the escarpment at Kani-Na.[3][4] Over time the Dogon moved north along the escarpment, arriving in the Sanga region in the 15th century.[5] Other oral histories place the origin of the Dogon to the west beyond the river Niger, or tell of the Dogon coming from the east. It is likely that the Dogon of today combine several groups of diverse origin who migrated to escape Islamization.[6] Islamic law classified them and many other ethnicities of the region, (Mossi, Gurma, Bobo, Busa and the Yoruba) as being within thedar al-harb and consequently fair game for slave raids organized by merchants, though it is often difficult to distinguish between pre-Muslim practices and later Islamic practice[7] as the growth of cities increased the demand for slaves across the region of West Africa. The historical pattern has included the murder of indigenous males by Islamic raiders and enslavement of women and children.[8]



Dogon wood sculpture, probably an ancestor figure, 17th-18th century

Dogon art is primarily sculpture. Dogon art revolves around religious values, ideals, and freedoms (Laude, 19). Dogon sculptures are not made to be seen publicly, and are commonly hidden from the public eye within the houses of families, sanctuaries, or kept with the Hogon (Laude, 20). The importance of secrecy is due to the symbolic meaning behind the pieces and the process by which they are made. Themes found throughout Dogon sculpture consist of figures with raised arms, superimposed bearded figures, horsemen, stools with caryatids, women with children, figures covering their faces, women grinding pearl millet, women bearing vessels on their heads, donkeys bearing cups, musicians, dogs, quadruped-shaped troughs or benches, figures bending from the waist, mirror-images,roned figures, and standing figures (Laude, 46-52). Signs of other contacts and origins are evident in Dogon art. The Dogon people were not the first inhabitants of the cliffs of Bandiagara. Influence from Tellem art is evident in Dogon art because of its rectilinear designs (Laude, 24).


and religion

The majority of Dogon practice an animist religion, including the ancestral spirit Nommo, with its festivals and a sect in which Sirius plays an important part. A significant minority of the Dogon practice Islam, another minority practice Christianity. The Dogon record their ancestry through a patrilineal system. Each Dogon community, or enlarged family, is headed by one male elder. This chief head is the oldest living son of the ancestor of the local branch of the family. According to the NECEP database, within thispatrilineal system polygynous marriages with up to four wives can occur. Most men, however, have only one wife, and it is rare for a man to have more than two wives. Formally, wives only join their husband's household after the birth of their first child. Women may leave their husbands early in their marriage, before the birth of their first child. After having children, divorce is a rare and serious matter, and it requires the participation of the whole village. An enlarged family can count up to hundred persons and is called guinna.

A Hogon

The Dogon are strongly oriented toward harmony, which is reflected in many of their rituals. For instance, in one of their most important rituals, the women praise the men, the men thank the women, the young express appreciation for the old, and the old recognize the contributions of the young. Another example is the custom of elaborate greetings whenever one Dogon meets another. This custom is repeated over and over, throughout a Dogon village, all day. During a greeting ritual, the person who has entered the contact answers a series of questions about his or her whole family, from the person who was already there. Invariably, the answer is sewa, which means that everything is fine. Then the Dogon who has entered the contact repeats the ritual, asking the resident how his or her whole family is. Because the word sewa is so commonly repeated throughout a Dogon village, neighboring peoples have dubbed the Dogon the sewa people. The Hogon is the spiritual leader of the village. He is elected between the oldest men of the enlarged families of the village. After his election he has to follow a six-month initiation period, during which he is not allowed to shave or wash. He wears white clothes and nobody is allowed to touch him. A

young virgin that has not yet had her period takes care of him, cleans the house and prepares his meals. She returns to her home at night.

A mud mosque and minaret

After his initiation, he will wear a red fez. He has an armband with a sacred pearl that symbolises his function. The virgin is replaced by one of his wives, but she also returns to her home at night. The Hogon has to live alone in his house. The Dogon believe the sacred snake Lébé comes during the night to clean him and to transfer wisdom. The Dogon maintain an agricultural mode of subsistence, and cultivate pearl millet,sorghum and rice, as well as onions, tobacco, peanuts, and some other vegetables.Marcel Griaule stimulated the construction of a dam near Sangha and incited the Dogon to cultivate onions. The economy of the Sangha region doubled since then and its onions are sold as far as the market of Bamako and even Ivory Coast. They also raise sheep,goats and chickens. Grain is stored in granaries.


Circumcision Cave Painting

In Dogon thought, male and females are thought to be born with both sexual components. The clitoris is considered male, while the Foreskin is considered to be female.[9] Rites of circumcision thus allow each sex to assume its proper physical identity. Boys arecircumcised in age groups of three years, counting for example all boys between 9 and 12 years old. This marks the end of their youth,

and they are now initiated. The blacksmithperforms the circumcision. Afterwards, they stay for a few days in a hut separated from the rest of the village people, until the wound has healed. The circumcision is a reason for celebration and the initiated boys go around and receive presents. They make music on a special instrument that is made of a rod of wood and calabashes that makes the sound of a rattle. The village of Songho has a circumcision cave ornamented with red and whiterock paintings of animals and plants. Nearby is a cave where music instruments are stored. The newly circumcised men must walk around naked for a month after the procedure so that their achievement in age can be admired by the citizens of the tribe. This practice has been passed down for generations and is always followed, even during winter. They are one of several African ethnic groups which practice female genital mutilation. The majority of the Dogon women practice a Class 2 circumcision, meaning that both the clitoris and the labia minora are removed. Girls are circumcised around the age of 7 or 8 years, sometimes younger. Circumcision for both male and female is seen as necessary for the individual to gain gender. Before circumcision they are seen as 'neuter'.



Due to the expense, their traditional funeral rituals or "damas" are becoming very rare. They may be performed years after the death. Damas that are still performed today are not usually performed for their original intent, but instead are done as a source of entertainmentfor tourists interested in the Dogon way of life. The Dogon use this entertainment to gain profit by charging the tourists money for whatmasks they want to see and the ritual itself (Davis, 68). The traditional dama consists of a masquerade that essentially leads the soulsof the departed to their final resting places through a series of ritual dances and rites. Dogon damas include the use of many masks which they wore by securing them in their teeth, and statuettes. Each Dogon village may differ in the designs of the masks used in the dama ritual. Every village may have their own way of performing the dama rituals. The dama consists of an event, known as the Halic, immediately after the death of a person and lasts for one day (Davis, 68). According to Shawn R. Davis, this particular ritual incorporates the elements of the yingim and the danyim. During the yincomoli ceremony, a gourd is smashed over the deceased’s wooden bowl, hoe, and bundukamba, (burial blanket), which announces the entrance of the masks used in this ceremony while the deceased entrance to their home in the family compound is decorated with ritual elements (Davis, 72-73). Masks used during the yincomoli ceremony include the Yana Gulay mask, the Satimbe mask, the Sirigie mask, and the Kanaga mask. The Yana Gulay mask’s purpose is to impersonate a Fulani woman and is made from cotton cloth and cowell shells. The Satimbe mask represents the women ancestors who are said to have discovered the purpose of the masks by guiding the spirits of the deceased into the afterlife. (Davis, 74) The Sirigie mask is a tall mask that is only used in funerals for the men that were alive during the holding of the Sigui ceremony (see below)

(Davis, 68). The Kanaga masqueraders, at one point, dance and sit next to the bundkamba which represents the deceased. The yingim and the danyim rituals each last a few days. These events are held annually to honor the elders that have died since the last Dama. The yingim consists of the sacrifice of cows, or other valuable animals, and large mock battles performed in order to help chase the spirit, known as the nyama, from the deceased body and village and towards the path to the afterlife (Davis, 68). The danyim then takes place a couple of months later. During the danyim, masqueraders perform dances every morning and evening for anytime up to six days depending on how that village performs this ritual. The masqueraders dance on the deceased’s rooftops, throughout the village, and the area of fields around the village (Davis, 68). Until the masqueraders have completed their dances and every ritual has been performed, it is said that any misfortune can be blamed on the remaining spirits of the dead (Davis, 68).


Crocodile Totem

Dogon society is composed of several different sects:

The Amma sect: worships the highest creator god Amma. The celebration is once a year and

consists of offering boiled millet on the conical altar of Amma, colouring it white. All other sects are directed to the god Amma.

Sigui: the most important ceremony of the Dogon. It takes place every 60 years and can take

several years. The last one started in 1967 and ended in 1973, the next one will start in 2027. The Sigui ceremony symbolises the death of the first ancestor (not to be confused with Lébé) until the moment that humanity acquired the use of the spoken word. The Sigui is a long procession that starts and ends in the village of Youga Dogorou and goes from one village to the other during several months or years. All men wear masks and dance in long processions. The Sigui has a secret language, Sigui So, that women are not allowed to learn. The secret Society of Sigui plays a central role in the ceremony. They prepare the ceremonies a long time in advance, and they live for three months hidden outside of the villages while nobody is allowed to see them. The men from the Society of Sigui are called the Olubaru. The villagers are afraid of them and fear is cultivated by a prohibition to go out at night, when sounds warn that the Olubaru are out. The most important mask that plays a major role in the Sigui rituals is the Great Mask or the Mother of Masks. It is several meters long and is just held up by hand and not used to hide a face. This mask is newly created every 60 years.

The Lébé sect: worships the ancestor Lébé Serou, the first mortal human being, who, in

Dogon myth, was transformed into a snake. The celebration takes place once a year and lasts for three days. The altar is a pointed conic structure on which the Hogon offers boiled millet while mentioning in his benediction eight grains plus one. Afterwards, the Hogon performs some rituals in his house that is also the home of Lébé. The last day, all the village men visit all the Binou altars and dance three times around the Lébé altar. The Hogon invites everybody that assisted to drink the millet beer.

The Binou sect: uses totems, common ones for the entire village and individual ones for totem

priests. A totem animal is worshipped on a Binou altar. Totems are for example the buffalo for Ogol-du-Haut, and the panther for Ogol-du-Bas. Normally, nobody will ever be harmed by its own totem animal, even if this is a crocodile as for the village of Amani. Here is a large pool of crocodiles that do not harm any villager. However, a totem animal might exceptionally harm if one has done something wrong. A worshipper is not allowed to eat his totem. For example, an individual with a buffalo as totem is not allowed to eat buffalo meat, but also not to use leather from its skin and even not to see a buffalo die. If this happens by accident he has to organise a purification sacrifice at the Binou altar. Boiled millet is offered and goats and chickens are sacrificed on a Binou altar. This colours the altar both white and red. Binou altars look like little houses with a door. They are bigger when the altar is for an entire village. A village altar has also the ‘cloud hook’, that will catch clouds and make it rain.

The twin sect: the birth of twins is a sign of good luck. The enlarged Dogon families have

common rituals during which they evoke all their ancestors till their origin, the ancient pair of twins from the creation of the world belief.

The Mono sect: the Mono altar is at the entry of every village. Unmarried young men celebrate

the Mono sect once a year in January or February. They spend the night around the altar, singing and screaming and waving with fire torches. They hunt for mice that will be sacrificed on the altar at dawn.



A typical Dogon Village

Dogon hall pillar bearing a male figure, formerly in the Council room of thechiefdom of Bankass.

Dogon villages have different buildings:

Male granary: storage place for pearl millet and other grains. Building with a pointed roof. This

building is well protected from mice. The amount of filled male granaries is an indication for the size and the richness of a guinna.

Female granary: storage place for a woman's things, her husband has no access. Building

with a pointed roof. It looks like a male granary but is less protected against mice. Here, she stores her personal belongings such as clothes, jewelry, money and some food. A woman is economically independent and earnings and things related to her merchandise are stored in her personal granary. She can for example make cotton or pottery. The amount of female granaries is an indication for the amount of women living in the guinna.

A Toguna

Tógu nà (a kind of case à palabres): a building only for men. They rest here much of the day

throughout the heat of the dry season, discuss affairs and take important decisions in the toguna.

The roof of a toguna is made by 8 layers of millet stalks. It is a low building in which one cannot

stand upright. This helps avoiding violence when discussions get heated.

House for menstruating women: this house is on the outside of the village. It is constructed by

women and is of lower quality than the other village buildings. Women having their period are considered to be unclean and have to leave their family house to live during five days in this house. They use kitchen equipment only to be used here. They bring with them their youngest children. This house is a gathering place for women during the evening. This hut is also thought to have some sort of reproductive symbology due to the fact that the hut can be easily seen by the men who are working the fields who know that only women who are on their period, and thus not pregnant, can be there.


Main article: Dogon languages Dogon has been frequently referred to as a single language. In reality, there are at least five distinct groups of dialects. The most ancient dialects being dyamsay and tombo, the former being most frequently used for traditional prayers and ritual chants. The Dogon language family is internally highly diverse, and many varieties are not mutually intelligible, actually amounting to some 12 dialects and 50 sub-dialects. There is also a secret ritual language sigi sǫ (language of Sigi), which is taught to dignitaries (olubarū) of the Society of the Masks during their enthronement at the Sigui ceremony..,[11]

Women have no right to learn Sigui So.

It is generally accepted that the Dogon languages belong to the Niger–Congo language family, though the evidence is weak. They have been linked to the Mande subfamily but also to Gur. In a recent overview of the Niger–Congo phylum, Dogon is treated as an independent branch.[13] The Dogon languages show few remnants of a noun class system (one example is that human nouns take a distinct plural suffix), leading linguists to conclude that Dogon is likely to have diverged from Niger–Congo very early. Another indication of this is the subject–object–verb basic word order, which Dogon shares with such early Niger–Congo branches as Ijoid and Mande.


and Sirius

Certain researchers investigating the Dogon have reported that they seem to possess advanced astronomical knowledge, the nature and source of which has subsequently become embroiled in controversy. From 1931 to 1956 the French anthropologist Marcel Griaulestudied the Dogon. This included field missions ranging from several days to two months in 1931, 1935, 1937 and 1938[14] and then annually from 1946 until 1956.[15] In late 1946 Griaule spent a consecutive thirty-three days in conversations with the Dogon wiseman Ogotemmêli, the source of much of Griaule and Dieterlen's future publications.[16] They reported that the Dogon believe that the brightest star in the sky, Sirius (sigi tolo or 'star of the Sigui'[17]), has two companion stars, pō tolo (the Digitaria star), and ęmmę ya tolo, (the female Sorghum star), respectively the first and second companions of Sirius A.[18] Sirius, in the Dogon system, formed one of the foci for the orbit of a tiny star, the companionate Digitaria star. When Digitaria is closest to Sirius, that star brightens: when it is farthest from Sirius, it gives off a twinkling effect that suggests to the observer several stars. The orbit cycle takes 60 years.

They also claimed that the Dogon appeared to know of the rings of Saturn, and the moons of

Jupiter.[20] Griaule and Dieterlen were puzzled by this Sudanese star system, and prefaced their analysis with the following remark:-

The problem of knowing how, with no instruments at their disposal, men could know the movements and certain characteristics of virtually invisible stars has not been settled, nor even posed.[21] In 1976 Robert K. G. Temple wrote a book called The Sirius Mystery arguing that the Dogon's system reveals precise knowledge of cosmological facts only known by the development of modern astronomy, since they appear to know, from Griaule and Dieterlen's account, that Sirius was part of a binary star system, whose second star, Sirius B, a white dwarf, was however completely invisible to the human eye, (just as Digitaria is the smallest grain known to the Dogon), and that it took 50 years to complete its orbit. The existence of Sirius B had only been inferred to exist through mathematical calculations undertaken by Friedrich Bessel in 1844. Temple then argued that the Dogon's information, if traced back to ancient Egyptian sources and myth, indicated an extraterrestrial transmission of knowledge of the stars.[22] Neither Griaule nor Dieterlen had ever made such bold claims about a putative esoteric source for the Dogon's knowledge. More recently, doubts have been raised about the validity of Griaule and Dieterlein's work.[23][24] In a 1991 article in Current Anthropology anthropologist Walter van Beek concluded after his research among the Dogon that, "Though they do speak about sigu tolo [which is what Griaule claimed the Dogon called Sirius] they disagree completely with each other as to which star is meant; for some it is an invisible star that should rise to announce the sigu [festival], for another it is Venus that, through a different position, appears as sigu tolo. All agree, however, that they learned about the star from Griaule"[25] Griaule's daughter Genevieve Calame-Griaule responded in a later issue, arguing that Van Beek did not go "through the appropriate steps for acquiring knowledge" and suggesting that van Beek's Dogon informants may have thought that he had been "sent by the political and administrative authorities to test the Dogon's Muslim orthodoxy." [26] An independent assessment is given by Andrew Apter of the University of California.[27] In his book Sirius Matters, Noah Brosch postulates that the Dogon may have had contact with astronomers based in Dogon territory during a five week expedition, led by Henri-Alexandre Deslandres, to study the solar eclipse of April 16, 1893.[28] Robert Todd Carrollalso states that a more likely source of the knowledge of the Sirius star system is from contemporary, terrestrial sources who provided information to interested members of the tribes.[29] James Oberg however, citing these suspicions notes their completely speculative nature, writing that: "The obviously advanced astronomical knowledge must have come from somewhere, but is it an ancient bequest or a modern graft? Although Temple fails to prove its antiquity, the evidence for the recent

acquisition of the information is still entirely circumstantial.".[30] Additionally, James Clifford notes that Griaule sought informants best qualified to speak of traditional lore, and deeply mistrusted converts to Christianity, Islam, or people with too much contact with whites.[31] Oberg points out a number of errors contained in the Dogon beliefs, including the number of moons possessed by Jupiter, that Saturn was the furthest planet from the sun, and the only planet with rings. Intrigue of other seemingly falsifiable claims, namely concerning a red dwarf star orbiting around Sirius (not hypothesized until the 1950s) led him to entertain a previous challenge of Temple's: "Temple offered another line of reasoning. "We have in the Dogon information a predictive mechanism which it is our duty to test, regardless of our preconceptions." One example: "If a Sirius-C is ever discovered and found to be a red dwarf, I will conclude that the Dogon information has been fully validated." (OK, I'll bite—but if such a star is not discovered, Temple has risked no converse conclusions.)" This alludes to reports that the Dogon knew of another star in the Sirius system, Emme Ya, or a star "larger than Sirus B but lighter and dim in magnitude." In 1995, gravitational studies indeed showed the possible presence of a brown dwarf star orbiting around Sirius (a Sirius-C) with a sixyear orbital period.[32] A more recent study using advanced infrared imaging concluded the probability of existence of a triple star system for Sirius is "now low" but could not be ruled out because the region within 5 AU of Sirius A had not been covered.[33]


1. 2. 3. 4.

^ a b c ^ Marcel Griaule, Germaine Dieterlen, le renard pâle, Institut d'Ethnologie Musée de

l'homme, Paris 1965, Tome 1: -Le mythe cosmologique p.17 ^ Dieterlen, G., 1955. Mythes et organisation sociale au Soudan franc¸ais. Journal de la

Socie´te´ des Africanistes 25 (1/2), 39–76. ^

1&_user=130907&_rdoc=1&_fmt=&_orig=search&_sort=d&_docanchor=&view=c&_searchStr Id=1014077024& 0&_userid=130907&md5=7ba34d633f95fb1e7257ee1acb74b42c, Population dynamics and Paleoclimate over the past 3000 years in the Dogon Country, Mali

5. 6.

^ Griaule, M. 1938 Masques dogons. Paris. ^ Morton, Robert (ed.) & Hollyman, Stephenie (photographs) & Walter E.A. van Beek

(text) (2001) Dogon: Africa's people of the cliffs. New York: Abrams. ISBN 0-8109-4373-5

7. 8. 9.

^ Timothy Insoll, The Archaeology of Islam in Sub-Saharan Africa (2003) Cambridge

University Press, p.308 ^ Christopher Wise, Yambo Ouologuem: Postcolonial Writer, Islamic Militant, Published

1999, Lynne Rienner Publishers ^ Marcel Griaule, Conversations with Ogotemmêli: An introduction to Dogon Religious

Ideas,International African Institute/Oxford University Press (1965) 1970 reprint pb.p.22. Originally, for the Dogon, man was endowed with a dual soul, and circumcision eliminates the superfluous one.(ibid.p.24)

10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17.

^ Anne Doquet, Sory Camara, Les masques dogon:ethnologie savante et

ethnologie autochtone, Karthala editions, 1999 p.253 ^ Griaule, Dieterlin, le renard pâle,' ibid.pp.18-19 ^ A very detailed recent study can be found in Hochstetler et al(2004) ^ Williamson and Blench (2000), p. 18. ^ Ciarcia, Gaetano “Dogons et Dogon. Retours au ‘pays du reel’”, L’Homme 157

(janvier/mars): 217-229. [1] ^ Imperato, Pascal James, Historical Dictionary of Mali Scarecrow Press,

1977 ISBN 9780810810051 p.53 ^ Imbo, Samuel Oluoch, An Introduction to African Philosophy Rowman &

Littlefield Publishers (28 Jun 1998) ISBN 978-0847688418p.64 [2] ^ Sirius is also called albararu. See Griaule and Dieterlen. le renard pâle,

18. 19.

^ Griaule and Dieterlen, le renard pâle, ibid.p.468,470,514 ^ M.Griaule, G.Dieterlen, 'A Sudanese Sirius System' (trans. of the authors'

paper, 'Un Système Soudanais de Sirius', Journal de la Société des Africainistes,' Tome XX, Fascicule 1, 1950 pp.273-94) in Robert Temple, 'Thew Sirius Mystery, (Sidgwick & Jackson),Futura Books, London 1976 pp.58-81,pp.64-5,p.68

20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25.

^ M Griaule, G Dieterlen, The Dogon of the French Sudan (1948) ^ M.Griaule, G.Dieterlen, 'A Sudanese Sirius System', ibid,p.59 ^ Robert K. G. Temple, The Sirius Mystery, 1975 ^ Bernard R. Ortiz de Montellano. "The Dogon Revisited". Retrieved 2007-10-13. ^ Philip Coppens. "Dogon Shame". Retrieved 2007-10-13. ^ van Beek, WAE; Bedaux; Blier; Bouju; Crawford; Douglas; Lane; Meillassoux

(1991). "Dogon Restudied: A Field Evaluation of the Work of Marcel Griaule". Current Anthropology 32 (2): 139–67. doi:10.1086/203932. JSTOR 2743641.

26. 27. 28.

^ Genevieve Calame-Griaule: "On the Dogon Restudied." Current Anthropology,

Vol. 32, No. 5 (Dec., 1991), pp. 575-577 ^ Andrew Apter, Cahiers d'Études africaines, XLV (1), 177, (2005), pp. 95-

129. "Griaule’s Legacy: Rethinking "la parole claire" in Dogon Studies". ^ Brosch, Noah (2008), Sirius Matters, Springer, p. 66, retrieved January 21,


^ Carroll, RT (2003). The Skeptic's Dictionary: A Collection of Strange Beliefs,

Amusing Deceptions, and Dangerous Delusions. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 104. ISBN 0471272426.

30. 31.

^ Oberg, J. "The Sirius Mystery". Retrieved 2008-12-30. ^ James Clifford, ‘Power and Dialogue in Ethnography:Marcel Griaule’s

initiation,’ in George W. Stocking (ed.) Observers observed: essays on ethnographic fieldwork, University of Wisconsin Press, 1983 pp. 121-156, p.137

32. 33.

^ Benest, D., & Duvent, J. L. (1995) "Is Sirius a triple star?". Astronomy and

Astrophysics 299: 621-628 ^ Bonnet-Bidaud, J. M.; Pantin, E. (October 2008). "ADONIS high contrast

infrared imaging of Sirius-B". Astronomy and Astrophysics 489: 651– 655. arXiv:0809.4871. Bibcode 2008A&A...489..651B. doi:10.1051/0004-6361:20078937.

[edit]References [edit]People 
Marcel Griaule: Conversations With Ogotemmeli: An Introduction To Dogon Religious

Ideas. 1st. ed. 1965. ISBN 0-19-519821-2

Marcel Griaule: Dieu d'eau. Entretiens avec Ogotemmêli. (1966) Ed Fayard. ISBN 2-

213-59847-9 (the original French work of Griaule (that was published in 1948) on his discussions with Ogotemmêli)

Bedaux, R. & J.D. van der Waals (eds.) (2003) Dogon: mythe en werkelijkheid in

Mali [Dogon: myth and reality in Mali]. Leiden: National Museum of Ethnology.

Morton, Robert (ed.) & Hollyman, Stephenie (photographs) & Walter E.A. van Beek

(text) (2001) Dogon: Africa's people of the cliffs. New York: Abrams. ISBN 0-8109-4373-5

Wanono, Nadine & Renaudeau, Michel (1996) Les Dogon (photographs by Michel

Renaudeau; text by Nadine Wanono). Paris: Éditions du Chêne-Hachette. ISBN 2-85108-9374

Eds. Petit Futé. Mali 2005-2006 ISBN 2-7469-1185-X

Sékou Ogobara Dolo: La mère des masques. Un Dogon raconte. (2002) Eds.

Seuil ISBN 2-02-041133-4

Gerard Beaudoin: Les Dogon du Mali (1997) Ed. BDT Développement. ISBN 2-


[edit]Language 
Bertho, J. (1953). "La place des dialectes dogon de la falaise de Bandiagara parmi

les autres groupes linguistiques de la zone soudanaise". Bulletin de l'IFAN 15: 405–441.

Hantgan, Abbie (2007) Dogon Languages and Linguistics An (sic) Comprehensive

Annotated Bibliography

Hochstetler, J. Lee, Durieux, J.A. & E.I.K. Durieux-Boon (2004) Sociolinguistic

Survey of the Dogon Language Area. SIL International. online version

Williamson, Kay & Blench, Roger (2000) 'Niger–Congo', in Heine, Bernd and Nurse,

Derek (eds) African Languages - An Introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University press, pp. 11–42.

[edit]Art 
Laude, Jean. African Art of the Dogon: The Myths of the Cliff Dwellers (New York:

The Viking Press 1973).

Davis , Shawn R. “Dogon Funerals” in African Art;

Except in the biggest cities like Bamako, most buildings are mud brick construction. Mud built buildings have to be re-plastered every year after the rainy season ends. The wooden pegs that you see on a lot of mud buildings are used to climb up the building during the annual mud plastering. The mud bricks are usually made right where they are needed. Villages usually have a mud hole next to them where the bricks for the village are made. These bricks have to be renewed constantly, especially after the rainy season. Since I couldn't come up with a better ordering, I put the towns in the order in which I visited them. Koro The Dogon town Koro is close to the border with Burkina Faso. It is a sleepy little town, but has a beautiful mud built mosque.

The mud brick The mosque in mosque in Koro. Koro. (526k) (585k) The mosque in Closer view of Koro. (538k) the mosque in Koro. (622k)

Street in Koro. (673k)

Songho Songho is the area where, according to legend, the first Dogon settled. There were four couples that were looking for a place to settle, but couldn't find water. A crocodile showed them the way to water, so they settled here. Since then, the crocodile is sacred for the Dogon. The Dogon all descend from these first four families. The Dogon found the area inhabited by the Tellem people, who lived in the cliffs of the escarpment. According to Dogon legend, the Tellem left voluntarily, when the Dogon started cultivating the land in the plains below the cliffs. The Tellem where thought to be able to fly or be wizards, since it seemed impossible to get to the cliff dwellings otherwise. According to archaeological evidence, the Dogon settled here probably in the 13th or 14th century. They came from the area of Kangaba in eastern Mali, where they left because of overcrowding and approaching Islamic Fulani.

View of Songho. (496k)

In Songho. (564k)

Mosque in Circumcision Wall painting of Songho. (480k) grotto. Women signs of the are not allowed original Dogon to go there. New families in the paintings are circumcision added every two grotto. (677k) years when the circumcision rites are performed. They are the

signs for the different Dogon families. (626k)

Crocodile painting. The crocodile is sacred for the Dogon. (617k)

Wall painting in Wall painting in Music the circumcision the circumcision instruments that grotto. (610k) grotto. (641k) are played after the circumcision rite. There are over 1000 of these instruments in this cave. They are used only once. (560k)

Sangha Sangha is a nice Dogon village on the plateau, close to the Bandiagara escarpment. It has a Muslim section, a Christian section, and an animist section. The three different religions seem to be getting along with each other (according to my guide). On the way down to Ireli, we walked past the fox tables. These are sand beds surrounded with stones. During the night, the fox, an important Dogon spirit, walks across the sand. In the morning the wise men interpret the tracks and predict the future.

View of Sangha View over In Sangha. from across the Sangha. (528k) (660k) valley. (536k)

Council place. House in The roof is so Sangha. (513k) low that you cannot stand in

there. If somebody gets angry during a meeting and stands up, they bang their head, which brings them back from their fury. (500k)

Village chief of Village well in Sangha and his Sangha. (564k) wife. This position is hereditary. The House of the Village chief of Huge baobab chief basically shaman/healer Sangha. (516k) tree in Sangha. spends his whole in the animist (607k) life in his house. section of The village Sangha. (634k) people bring him food, and everything he needs. (705k)

Sangha in the morning mist. (502k)

Tellem buildings The Tellem lived in this area before the Dogon came in the 13th or 14th century. They lived in the cliffs of the Bandiagara escarpment, in seemingly impossible locations.


Closer view of

really wondered how the Tellem got up there. (634k)

Douentza Not much to say about this sleepy little town.

Market in Douentza. (446k)

Bella huts in Douentza. (453k)

Main street in Douentza with small mosque. (432k)

Meeting place in Street scene in Douentza. Douentza with (855k) street vendor grilling meat. (550k)

Tombouctou (Timbuktu) Legend has it that the name Tombouctou comes from "Tom" place of a well, and "Bouctou", the name of the woman who found the first well, sometime in the 10th century. The city became an important trading post, especially for salt, on the way from the Sahara Desert into central Mali. It was also an important scholarly city with a university as early as the 13th century. In the 16th century, there were 100,000 people in Tombouctou, including 25,000 students of the university and some 180 Koranic schools. At the end of the 16th century, Tombouctou was conquered by Morocco, and lost its autonomy, and soon its university. This led to the decline of Tombouctou. Europeans discovered Tombouctou in the first half of the 19th century. Toward the end of the 19th century, it was annexed by France.

Touareg hut on Nomad tents on View of the outside of Tombouctou with Nomad

The moon over Touareg tents

Leather Touareg tent in a small museum in Tombouctou. (446k)

House in Tombouctou. (610k) According to legend, this is the first well in Tombouctou. (588k) Beautifully decorated entrance door. (610k) Window detail. (734k)

Mud brick Bela tents in construction in Tombouctou. Tombouctou. (496k) (684k)

Street view with bread oven. People from Tombouctou say that if there is Bread oven in no sand in the the street. bread, you are (551k) not in Tombouctou. I can attest to that, there definitely will be sand in the bread if you are in Tombouctou. (500k)

Old Koran documents. (432k)

The Djingarey Ber mosque (oldest mosque in Tombouctou from 1325). A few days after my visit during a religious celebration at this mosque, there was a stampede and 26 people were killed. (383k)

Sidi Yahiya mosque (from ~1400). (539k)

Sanikore mosque, the largest mosque in Tombouctou. (416k)

Closer view of Closer view of the Sanikore the Sanikore mosque. (364k) mosque. (435k)

Sunset over the sand dunes on the outskirts of Tombouctou. (280k)

Mopti Mopti was not overly interesting. The mosque is nice, the market was not very big. The most interesting part was the harbor and its surroundings. There are drainage ditches in most parts of the town, but they are almost all full of garbage.


Market in Mopti. (641k)

Street scene in Mopti. (713k)

Even in the city, people have their goats. (627k)

the outskirts of Mopti. (455k)

Harbor in Mopti. (514k)

The mosque in View of the Mopti. (567k) mosque in Mopti. (473k) Close-up view of the mosque in Mopti. (665k)

Young trees on a street in Mopti, protected from goats and sheep by a mud brick enclosure. (762k)

Djenné Djenné is famous for its mosque, the largest mud brick structure in the world. It has interesting houses in the Moroccan part of the town.

Street scene in On the street in Fetching water. Djenné. (522k) Djenné. (541k) (525k)

Street in Djenné. (540k)

Another well in Djenné. (505k)


the old part of Djenné. (474k)

Vegetable gardens in Djenné along the river. (502k)

Street in Djenné The mosque in The mosque in with the mosque Djenné. (531k) Djenné. (491k) in the background. (531k)

Close-up of the mosque in Djenné. (729k)

Ségou and Old Ségou Ségou is the site of the Festival sur le Niger, an annual big music festival. It is one of the larger cities in Mali. Old Ségou is the site of the palace of the Bambara King Biton Mamary Coulibaly. Old Ségou was first settled by Touaregs. In the 11th century Bambara replaced the Touareg. The oldest mosque in Old Ségou was built by the Touareg. The other mosque was built by Biton Mamary Coulibaly for his mother. He himself was animist, but his mother was Muslim, and he dedicated the mosque to her.

Small mosque outside of Ségou. (498k)

Street scene in Ségou. (742k)

Main stage of Sign against theFestival sur HIV (VIH in le Niger. (571k) French) next to the main stage. (325k)

Car and cart caravan of festival participants driving through Ségou. (502k)

Inside the house

Old Ségou. (684k)

View over Old Ségou. (622k)

Palace of Biton Mamary Coulibaly. (414k) Close-up of a house in Old Ségou. (683k)

Oldest mosque in Old Ségou. (360k)

Mosque dedicated to the mother of Biton Mamary Coulibaly Tree outside the Youngest (688k) old mosque. mosque in Old (895k) Ségou. (675k)

Bamako Bamako is the capital of Mali. It is the site of the only university in Mali. It is much like any big city, lots of traffic congestion. It has a big market, and a nice museum about the history of Mali.
An Street scene in The dining area of my Morning mist on hotel in Bamako was the Niger River in above theNiger Bamako (210k)

endless string of big Bamako. (535k) trucks heading into

Bamako. (329k)

River. (474k)

Kayes Kayes (pronounced Kai) is a little town in the far western parts of Mali. It has a bunch of French colonial buildings. Outside the city is the Fort de Médine, a fort from French colonial times on the Senegal River, from 1855, with a nice old train station. The first school in the area is there, built in 1870. There is the site of a former a slave market next to the fort. The French abolished slavery in 1848, but still practiced it in Mali. slaves were sold to Mauritania, Morocco, and Algeria. The Tour de Guet is said to have held gold in World War II to hide it from the Germans. A little further south is a series of waterfalls, the Chutes de Felou (see Mali Nature).

French colonial Market in building in Kayes (551k) Kayes. (628k) A

Vegetable gardens in Kayes. (436k)

School next to the Fort de Médine (535k)

Fort de Médine outside of Kayes. (543k)

Site of the Old train former slave station. (444k) market. (399k) Main building in machine gun in the fort. (364k) the fort. This gun and guns like it were the main reason the French could win against the Bambara. (478k) Tour de Guet. (470k)

Small villages and camps

Fulani camp. As Fulani huts and Dogon village usual, the kids cattle. (734k) (671k) come running to have a look at the strangers. (715k)

Dogon granary. Mosque in a (800k) Dogon village. (631k)

Dogon village. (703k)

View of a village on the Bandiagara escarpment. (688k)

View of the Dogon village Ireli. (679k) View of the Dogon village Ireli from the top of the Bandiagara escarpment. This was the path we took to get from the plateau down into the plains. (630k)

Council place in Ireli. (632k)

View of Banani from the top of the Bandiagara escarpment. This is where the road climbs up the escarpment. (633k)

View of Dogon village Konoudou. (506k)

View of Dogon Dogon village village Yondouma. Konoudou. (852k) (494k) Dogon village Damassongo. (836k)

Bela camp. (445k)

Bambara village. (447k)

Bambara village Christian with mosque. church in a (453k) Bambara village. (477k)

Granary in a Bambara village. (464k)

Bobo village near Mopti. (530k)

Bozo settlement Bozo village on on the Niger the Niger River. River. (403k) (498k)

Houses, construction, signs, etc.

Houses in a Dogon village. (572k)

Tent house in Inside the Ignedjetebane, house. (681k) near the Gourma reserve. (670k)

Tree trunk as stairs. (627k)

Wood carved pillar on the council place. (671k)

Sign in Sangha. (634k)

Water tower in Wood carved a Dogon village. decoration. Some villages (782k) had running water like that, but mostly the

One of the hotel rooms. They were simple but relatively clean. (285k)

This was my sleeping quarters in one of the camps, a mat on the floor. Fortunately I had a mosquito net and a sleeping bag. (506k)

villages had a village well for water. (574k)

Mud brick Mud brick factory next to a fabrication. village. (555k) (472k)

Mud brick fabrication along theNiger River. (475k)

Mud plastering Quarry for a wall. As building stones. frequently seen, (710k) one or two people were working, the others were watching. (617k)

Advertising for Field covered with the ubiquitous plastic bags. They are a real

In January/February 2010 I had arranged for an individual tour through West Africa. After a great experience in Tanzania, Kenya, and Rwanda on an individual tour, I decided it is worth it to pay for an individual tour. It allows me to stop wherever I want, take pictures for as long as I want to and rearrange things as I see fit. The tour was organized by Balanzan Tours. I did have a bit of a problem with them, but eventually we came to an agreement how to solve it. The trip was done with a Toyota Land Cruiser 4x4. The car was a little unreliable at times, having difficulty starting. It needed to be pushed to start whenever it stalled with a hot engine, which happened several times. In Bamako, the car broke down completely. It took my guide a full day to find a replacement car. The second car got me without further problems to Dakar in Senegal. Itinerary Coming from Burkina Faso by car, we drove northwest into Mali. The first town we reached was Koro with a very nice mud brick mosque. From there I

visitedSongho with a sacred site for circumcision rites. From there we drove to Sangha, a village on the Bandiagara escarpment on the plateau in Dogon country, where I stayed for a couple of nights. On the full day there I went on day long hiking tour down the escarpment from the plateau to the plains to Ireli, then to Amani with the sacred crocodiles, back to Ireli for lunch, then to Banani, and back up to the plateau to Sangha. It was about 6 hours and 16 km (10 mi) of walking. The next day we drove from Sangha to Douenza for the next overnight stop, through several Dogon villages. From there we drove to the Gourma elephant reserve. We went on elephant watch that afternoon, and again the next morning. Overnight accommodations there was a mat on the dirt floor outside. I had a sleeping bag and a mosquito net with me for the camping part on the Niger River, so it was OK. No running water, just a bucket of cold water for washing. After elephant tracking in the morning, we drove on to Tombouctou (Timbuktu), the mysterious Touareg city on the edge of the Sahara. In order to get toTombouctou, you have to take a ferry across the Niger River. The ferry takes about 45 minutes to drive up the Niger River to Tombouctou. We were lucky that the ferry was right there waiting for us. If you are unlucky, you may have to wait 3 hours before the ferry runs next. That afternoon I went on a tour of Tombouctou, and on a camel ride for a sunset view. After another brief city tour the next morning we went to the Niger Riverto the boat that would carry me for the next three days. It was a small boat with a crew of two, but plenty of room for me and my guide. The boat crew cooked all our meals right on the boat on a charcoal stove. They put up a tent for me for the two nights that I spent on the Niger River. The boat was driving up the Niger River for about 7 hours on the first day, 12 hours on the second day, and 8 hours on the third. It was a pleasant boat ride, with lots of bird watching, and picturesque settlements, boats and fishermen along the river. In the afternoon of the third day on the river we stopped just short of Mopti, and were picked up by our Toyota Land Cruiser for a short, one hour drive toMopti. In Mopti I did a city tour. There is a nice mosque and a busy market and harbor.

The next day we continued west to Djenné. Djenné was founded in the 10th century and is one of the oldest cities in Africa. It is famous for the largest mud brick structure in the world, its beautiful mosque. The hotel there didn't have hot water, but my guide arranged for a bucket of hot water. The room was full of mosquitoes, but they came and sprayed bug spray. That, and the mosquito net, made for an uneventful sleep. From Djenné we drove to Ségou, the site of the Festival sur le Niger, a big music festival, around which my trip was planned. I spent three nights in Ségou and visited the festival. After the festival we continued west to Bamako. In Bamako our car broke down. I was scheduled to spend only one night in Bamako, but it took them more than one day to find a replacement car, so I lost one day there. The hotel was away from anything interesting, and I was waiting for word about the car all day, so I didn't get to see anything during that day. After the second night in Bamako, they had a replacement car and we continued west to Kayes, the last town in Mali. From there we crossed the border to Senegal. Observations Of the three countries that I visited on this trip through West Africa, I liked the people in Mali second best (after Burkina Faso). There was a distinct gradient in the propensity of people to smile from Burkina Faso to Mali to Senegal. A similar gradient was in the pressure from hawkers. There was much less pressure from hawkers in Burkina Faso than in Mali, on the other hand, in Senegal it was even worse than in Mali. The hawkers were everywhere, and if not hawkers, there were kids begging. People were in general neither overly friendly nor unfriendly. Everybody everywhere seemed to want to sell me something. Even when they just seemed to want to chat with me, inevitably later on they asked me to come to their store so they could sell me something. People in general didn't like it when I wanted to take pictures. Kids frequently asked for money when I took pictures. The overnight accommodations were quite varied. In the Gourma elephant reserve, I only had a mat on the dirt floor outside for accommodation. The best hotel was in Bamako, but even that was not anything to write home about. In general, all the hotels were quite clean. In a few hotels I didn't have hot water. In the hotel in Djenné my guide arranged for a bucket of hot water, which

helped. In the other two places with cold water I just had to live with cold showers. Surprisingly enough, almost every hotel had air conditioning. The food was decent, basic local fare, nothing special, but usually tasty. The exception was breakfast. All I got was a piece of baguette and some marmalade. Sometimes I also got a piece of butter. With it I got hot water and Nescafe. That was it, nothing else! The local beer is a fairly good lager, just what I like in a beer. It was quite inexpensive, especially in the smaller towns. But even in Bamako in the hotel, it was reasonably inexpensive. Outside of the main cities, people live in small villages, mostly mud brick and straw huts. Food and other things are stored in separate granaries. Each family has a man's and a woman's granary. Women are not allowed to look in the men's granaries, and vice-versa. My guide said that part of the reason for this is that men are afraid that a woman might leave them if she looks in the man's granary and doesn't see enough food there. The official language in Mali is French. There are may different tribes in Mali, all speaking different languages. Some are farmers, others (e.g. the Fulani) are herders that raise cattle, goats, and sheep. The Fulani are still mostly nomadic, moving their livestock to new pastures regularly. The Dogon in the southeast of Mali have lived very isolated for centuries. So isolated in fact that each valley developed its own language that can't be understood by the other Dogon, let alone by the other tribes in Mali. There are several dozen languages in the Dogon area alone. Women mostly wear traditional ankle length dresses. I did see women wearing western style clothes, but these were distinctly in the minority. Men's clothing was more equally divided between traditional kaftans and western style t-shirts and pants. One thing that had to do with clothes was baffling me till almost the end of the trip. When women work with things on the ground, they bend down from the waist, not squat down in the knees. I somehow always had an odd feeling about that, it just didn't seem right. I finally realized why when I saw a teenager in a mini skirt in Saint Louis in Senegal. I am a cross-dresser, and a while ago I started wearing mini skirts myself. I very quickly learned the lesson how to pick something up from the floor while wearing a mini skirt. You do not bend down from the waist, as I saw the women in West Africa do, when you wear a mini skirt, unless you want do flash the people behind you. I had learned that embarrassing lesson so well, that it made me uncomfortable even to see other women bend down like that. However, women in West

Africa almost exclusively wear ankle length dresses, so they can afford to bend down from the waist. The most common food crops are millet and sorghum. My visit was during the dry season, so the fields were fallow. After the harvest, the millet and sorghum are thrashed. The millet straw is collected and stored in piles to dry. The straw is later used as building material. The other important building material is mud. There are mud holes near every village, where the villagers make the mud bricks for their houses. The mud bricks are sun dried only, they are not fired. The mud plastering has to be redone every year after the rainy season. That is the reason why many of the larger buildings look like porcupines, with wooden beams sticking out. The wooden beams are used to climb on the buildings to redo the mud plaster on the walls. I saw men, women, and children make these mud bricks. In general, it seemed that most of the work is done by women (which was also what my tour guide told me). Children also work frequently. The men seem to mostly sit around and talk. This was the same in Burkina Faso and Senegal, and was similar in East Africa, although maybe not quite as obvious. Transportation for people between cities and within is with buses. Private transportation is a lot with motorcycles and mopeds. Outside the cities a lot of transportation of goods is with donkey carts. In the towns, people drawn carts are frequently used to move goods around. And a lot of goods are carried by men and women on their heads, especially when they bring goods from the settlements to the markets and bring back their purchases. The markets are an important part of society. In the larger towns, the markets are daily, in the smaller villages they may be only once or twice per week. I visited markets in several towns. It was quite interesting to walk through these markets and watch the people. Everything is for sale that you may need. The most important part is usually the food market, other parts are for other household goods. With the population density fairly high in the area that I traveled,` there is no large wildlife left. It all ended up in cooking pots a long time ago. The only wildlife that I saw was birds and small animals like lizards and geckos. The only exception during my trip was the elephant reserve in Gourma. These elephants are the northern-most elephants in Africa. The bird life was very interesting, especially during the boat trip on the Niger River.

Summary Mali is a fairly poor country. In order to make a living, people everywhere are trying to sell something. Anywhere there are tourists, the hawkers can be pretty insistent. There are lots of picturesque villages in Mali, especially along the Niger River. There is not much wildlife in most parts of Mali, other than birds. Even bird life was not quite as varied as I expected, but still quite interesting, especially along the Niger River. The highlights of the trip were Tombouctou (Timbuktu), the trip on the Niger River, and the northern-most elephants in Africa. Mali is certainly worth a visit, but be prepared to fend off hawkers in every tourist area. I have organized the pictures in several pages. All pictures are © Günther Eichhorn


Towns and Villages

Festival sur le Niger

Home and Business

Along the Niger River


Related Interests