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THE DOGONS OF MALI

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Bianca
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« on: September 21, 2007, 08:30:22 am »








                                            T H E   D O G O N S   O F   M A L I   




The Dogon are a group of people living in the central plateau region of Mali, south of the Niger bend near the city of Bandiagara in the Mopti region. They number just under 800,000.

The Dogon are best known for their mythology, 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.
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Bianca
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« Reply #1 on: September 21, 2007, 08:35:51 am »


The Dogon village of Banani.
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« Reply #2 on: September 21, 2007, 08:38:54 am »


The Bandiagara Cliffs






Geography and demography
 
The principal Dogon area is dissected by the Bandiagara Escarpment, a sandstone cliff of up to 500m (1,640 ft) high, stretching for about 150km (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. The current population is at least 450,000. Historically, Dogon villages have frequently fallen victim to slave raiders. Neighboring tribal groups acted as slave merchants, as the growth of cities increased the demand for slaves across the region of West Africa.

At the end of the eighteenth century, the jihads that were triggered by the resurgence of Islam caused slaves to be sought for warfare. 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. Nearby is the Niger 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.
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« Reply #3 on: September 21, 2007, 08:42:21 am »









Dogon art







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



Dogon art is primarily wood sculpture, although some pieces are made out of stone or forged from metal. Dogon art serves both an every day and ritualistic function. The carvers who create this art continue the tradition in making the pieces as the mentors who taught them did. The purpose of Dogon art is to preserve the peoples' tradition and not for an individual claim to a piece. Both carvers and especially blacksmiths are important figures in their culture and many myths surround their work and are retold by the Dogon. Knowledge is passed from the elders to those whose job is going to be making these ritualistic and everyday pieces. Pieces used in rituals are created by the blacksmiths who employ similar techniques when working with metal as when working with wood.

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, aproned 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).
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« Reply #4 on: September 21, 2007, 08:48:49 am »








Culture and religion





The majority of Dogon practice an animist religion, including the ancestral spirit Nommo, with its festivals and Sirian mythology. A significant minority of the Dogon practice Islam, and some have been converted by missionaries to 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 this patrilineal system polygynic marriages, with up to four spouses can occur.

Hogon


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 residence unit 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.

The Dogon are strongly oriented toward harmony, and this harmony 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 of the word sewa is so commonly repeated throughout a Dogon village, neighboring peoples have dubbed the Dogon the sewa people.


Hogon House



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 cloths 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 during the night. After his initiation, he will wear a red bonnet. 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. During the night, the sacred snake Lébé comes 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 onions are sold as far as on the market of Bamako or even in Ivory Coast. They also raise sheep, goats and chickens. Grain is stored in granaries.
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« Reply #5 on: September 21, 2007, 08:54:32 am »








Circumcision








Circumcision Cave Painting



Boys are circumcised 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 blacksmith performs 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 white rock paintings of animals and plants. Nearby is a cave where music instruments are stored. The newly circumcized men must walk around naked for a moon 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 circumcision, also called excision. According to Sékou Ogobara Dolo, at least in the Sangha region, the milder form is practiced. This means that only the clitoral hood is removed, which is similar to male circumcision. Girls are circumsized 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'.
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« Reply #6 on: September 21, 2007, 08:57:08 am »








Funeral Masquerade





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 entertainment for tourists interested in the Dogon way of life. The Dogon use this entertainment to gain profit by charging the tourists money for what masks they want to see and the ritual itself (Davis, 68). The traditional dama consists of a masquerade that essentially leads the souls of the departed to their final resting places through a series of ritual dances and rites. Dogon damas include the use of many masks 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).
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« Reply #7 on: September 21, 2007, 08:59:22 am »



Crocodile Totem







Cults





The Dogon know different cults:

Sigui: the most important ceremony of the Dogon. It takes place every 65 years and can take several years. The last one started in 1967 and ended in 1973, the next one will start in 2032. The Sigui ceremony symbolises the dead of the first ancestor (not to be confounded with Lébé) till 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 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 Oloubarou. The villagers are afraid of them and fear is cultivated by a prohibition to go out at night, when sounds warn that the Oloubarou 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 65 years.
The Amma cult: worships the main, creator god Amma. The celebration is once a year and consists of offering boiled millet on the conical altar of Amma, colouring it white.
 
Crocodile Totem

The Lébé cult: worships the sacred snake Lébé, who was the first mortal human being. Lébé was transformed into a snake. The celebration is once a year and takes 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 cult: 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 cult: the birth of twins is a sign of good luck. The enlarged Dogon families have cult rituals during which they evoke all their ancestors till their origin, the ancient pair of twins from the creation of the world myth.

The Mono cult: the Mono altar is at the entry of every village. Unmarried young men celebrate the Mono cult 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.
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« Reply #8 on: September 21, 2007, 09:00:56 am »






Dogon villages





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.
 
A Dogon's male granaryFemale 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.
Toguna (also called case a palabres): building only for men. They rest, discuss 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.



A TogunaHouse for women that have their period:

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.

A typical Dogon Village
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« Reply #9 on: September 21, 2007, 09:10:06 am »

                                                                                         








Dogon languages





Dogon has been frequently referred to as a single language. In reality, there are at least five distinct groups of dialects.  The Dogon language family is internally highly diverse, and many varieties are not mutually intelligible, actually 12 dialects and 50 variations. There is also a secret language Sigui So, which is used by the Society of the Masks during the Sigui ceremonies. Women have no right to learn Sigui So.

It is generally accepted that the Dogon languages belong to the Niger-Congo language family, but there is less certainty about their place within this family. The Dogon group has 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 before Volta-Congo.

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. It is a passive voice language.
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« Reply #10 on: September 21, 2007, 09:13:16 am »



DANCERS CELEBRATE THE CREATION OF THE UNIVERSE








Mythology




According to Robert Temple, the central element of Dogon cosmogony and cosmology is the star Sirius, which they call Po Tolo. This star was the seed of the Milky Way galaxy and is the "navel" of the entire universe. The Dogon describe the universe as "infinite, but measurable", and filled with many yalu ulo, or spiral star systems, including the one containing the Earth's sun. According to the Dogon perception of the universe, most of the universe is part of the "external" star system, while nearer to Earth is the "internal" star system. The stars in the "internal" system include many that they claim affect the lives of people of Earth and play a part in human history, including not only the Sirius star system, but also Orion, Pleiades and others.

An ethnic group that lives near the Dogon, the Bozo, have a similar mythology about Sirius in the sky and refer to it as the "Eye Star".






Controversy




A number of researchers investigating the Dogon have reported apparent knowledge that has subsequently become embroiled in controversy. From 1931 to 1956, two French anthropologists, Marcel Griaule and Germaine Dieterlen, spent 25 years with the Dogon, during which time they were initiated into the tribe.  Griaule and Dieterlen reported that the Dogon appeared to know that the star, Sirius, in the constellation, Canis Major was in fact a binary star. They also appeared to know of the rings of Saturn, and the Moons of Jupiter, which are usually considered invisible to the unaided eye.  In 1852 American missionary D.T. Stoddart wrote a letter to astronomer John Herschel that ".. at twilight, Jupiter's satellites could be seen with the naked eye and the elongated shape of Saturn also.", according to Hunter Adams.

MIT professor of physics, Kenneth Brecher, commented that "They (the Dogon) have no business knowing any of this", and the controversy escalated when author Robert Temple suggested an extra-terrestrial source of the Dogon's knowledge.  Griaule and Dieterlen made no claims on the source of the Dogon's knowledge.
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« Reply #11 on: September 21, 2007, 09:16:01 am »







Robert Temple





Robert Temple, in his 1975 book The Sirius Mystery, devoted a central role to the Dogon to support his hypothesis on ancient astronauts. Temple read the information that had earlier been gathered and published by Marcel Griaule and Germaine Dieterlen during their long anthropological study of the Dogon. The starting point of his interest in the Dogon was the mystery of how they acquired knowledge of Sirius B, the invisible companion star of Sirius A.

A substantial bulk of Temple's book consists of comparative linguistic and mythological scholarship, pointing out resemblances among Dogon, Egyptian and Sumerian beliefs and symbols. Greek and Arab myths and words are considered to a lesser extent. Temple did not argue that the only way that the Dogon could have obtained their accurate information on Sirius B was by contact with an advanced civilization. He also considered alternative possibilities, such as a very ancient, advanced, and lost civilization that was behind the sudden appearance of advanced civilization in both Egypt and Sumeria. He personally found the theory of alien contact more convincing, but he did not claim certainty about it.

Since the release of Temple's book, some scholars have offered alternative explanations for Temple's claims.

Astronomer Carl Sagan dealt with the issue in his book Broca's Brain (1979), stating that there are many problems with Temple's hypothesis. As an example Sagan mentions that the Dogon seem to have no knowledge of another planet beyond Saturn which has rings, which would suggest that their knowledge is more likely from European, and not extra-terrestrial sources.

Another astronomer, Ian Ridpath, points out in an article in the Skeptical Inquirer (1978), "The whole Dogon legend of Sirius and its companions is riddled with ambiguities, contradictions, and downright errors, at least if we try to interpret it literally".

 Ridpath concludes that the information that resembles the facts about Sirius was probably ascertained by way of cultural contamination.
Journalist and skeptic James Oberg collected claims that have appeared concerning Dogon mythology in his 1982 book.

 According to Oberg, the Dogon's astronomical information resembles the knowledge and speculations of European astronomical knowledge of the late 1920s. He cites Sagan in the assertion that the Dogon could have gotten their astronomical knowledge, including the information on Sirius, from European visitors before their mythology was recorded in the 1930s.

Oberg also points out that the Dogons were not an isolated tribe, and thus it was not even necessary for outsiders to inform the Dogon about Sirius B. They could very well have acquired such knowledge abroad, passing it on to their tribe later. (Sirius B was first observed in 1862, and had been predicted in 1844 on dynamic grounds.) In this way, by the time Temple visited the Dogon in the 1970s, they could have had a great deal of contact with the western world and had time to incorporate Sirius B into their religion. However, Oberg does concede that such assumptions of recent acquisition is "entirely circumstantial" and has no foundation in documented evidence and concludes that it seems likely that the Sirius mystery will remain exactly what its title implies; a mystery.

One unexplained aspect of the reported Dogon culture is the assertion that the Dogon knew of another star in the Sirius system, Emme Ya, or "larger than Sirus B but lighter and dim in magnitude." In 1995, gravitational studies showed the presence of a brown dwarf star circling around Sirius.  Since this was not theorized until the late 1950's, the controversy is not settled and the mystery remains alive. No critics have yet been able to dispute this claim.

Temple's book and the debates that followed its release publicized the existence of the Dogon tribe among many New Age followers and proponents of ancient astronaut theories. Speculation about the Dogons on numerous websites is now mingled with fact, and with Temple's explanations on Dogons, leading to controversy among the public about Dogon mythology. Temple, however, has stated in the reprint of The Sirius Mystery that he in no way supports cults that have been inspired by his book.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dogon
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« Reply #12 on: September 21, 2007, 09:23:03 am »

                                          



FROM CRYSTALINK:




                                           





The Dogon are an ethnic group located mainly in
the administrative districts of Bandiagara and
Douentza in Mali, West Africa.
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« Reply #13 on: September 21, 2007, 09:35:17 am »








This area is composed of three distinct topographical regions: the plain, the cliffs, and the plateau.





Within these regions the Dogon population of about 300,000 is most heavily concentrated
along a 200 kilometer (125 mile) stretch of escarpment called the Cliffs of Bandiagara.

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« Reply #14 on: September 21, 2007, 09:39:53 am »



These sandstone cliffs run from southwest to northeast, roughly parallel
to the Niger River, and attain heights up to 600 meters (2000 feet).




The cliffs provide a spectacular physical setting for Dogon villages built on the sides of the escarpment.
There are approximately 700 Dogon villages, most with fewer than 500 inhabitants.

A Dogon family compound in the village of Pegue is seen from the top of the Bandiagara escarpment.
During the hot season, the Dogon sleep on the roofs of their earthen homes.
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