Thursday, June 7, 2012

Videos Of Dogon Mask Dancers (Mali, West Africa)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post provides information and videos about Dogon mask dancers from Mali, West Africa.

The content of this post is presented for historical, anthropological, folkloric, educational, and aesthetic purposes. The copyrights remain with their owners.

My thanks to the musicians and dancers shown in these videos. My thanks also to the videographers and uploaders of these featured videos.

Unique Dogon Culture Survives in West Africa, page 2
Dogon Mask Dance

Our expedition had also come to witness the dances of the Dogon masks, known throughout the world by anthropologists and art curators. Dogon masks rank among the most respected within the world of tribal art collections and have influenced such Western 20th-century artists as Picasso and Braque, even the Cubist movement.

As a visual story teller and photographer, I was most interested in documenting the visually powerful sirige mask .... The mask binds the Dogon people to the celestial world of heaven (where the afterworld exists) and Earth, which provides food, shelter and life. The dancers of the sirige mask are considered the most skilled. They use their teeth to balance the 20-foot (6-meter) high mask, which is carved from the limb of a single tree. Dancers swing the mask in sweeping motions to represent the arc of the sun.

The mask's design, a straight line, serves to connect the worlds of the sun and Earth through the conduit of the dancer and his body. Like all Dogon masks, the sirige belongs to the afterworld, the realm of where life and death meet.

The Dogon perform with their dancing masks to honor the passing of a respected elder. This dama dance ceremony will often last for three days and involve dozens of dancers representing figures from the animal world, male and female powers, and the afterworld. Once the dama dance has been performed, the aged bones of the elder are placed high in the windswept cliffs of the sacred caves for the dead, where the red mountains meet the sky in the little known land of the Dogon in southern Mali.
Due to the expense, [The Dogon's] traditional funeral rituals or "damas" are becoming very rare. They may be performed years after the death...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 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...

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.
(These videos are posted in no particular order.)

Video #1: The Dogon Dama - Mask Dance

Uploaded by VinaYard on May 22, 2011

"An important Dogon tradition is the Dama or masked funeral dance. By masquerading behind masks, the dancers allow the souls of the deceased to escape to their final resting place and to join the ranks of their ancestors, thereby restoring order to the universe. Participation in the Dama is a great honor as it represents the final step in the passage from boyhood to manhood. Boys eagerly watch the infrequently performed Dama, in anticipation of the day in which they may also participate in the dance. The village Elders, who are too old to endure the physical exertion of the dance, stand on the sideline, play the music, explain the meaning of the various masks, and keep the pace of the ritual going. The Dama is usually performed every five years or so."

Video #2: African Carving: A Dogon Kanaga Mask - PREVIEW

Uploaded by docued on Sep 15, 2008

"Purchase: The Kanaga mask is used in deeply sacred rituals by the Dogon people of Mali. Carving this mask is as important a ritual as the ceremonies in which the mask is used. The carver, a blacksmith, finds the proper tree and, in a secret cave outside the village, he shapes the mask with gestures which repeat the movement of the dancers who will wear it. When a dancer wears the Kanaga mask he becomes the Creator symbolically. He touches the ground with his mask and directs a soul to Heaven. Although these dances are now frequently performed for the public, the meaning of Kanaga is retained by the Dogon who fear, respect and depend on the power of the mask.

a film by Thomas Blakely and Eliot Elisofon
in collaboration with Robert Gardner for The Film Study Center at Harvard University distributed by Documentary Educational Resources"

Video #3: Mali Tribe in Dogon Valley with traditional masks.

Uploaded by ageposthumus on Jan 22, 2009

"Hiking through the Dogen valley, this tribe performed their dance with their sacret masks."

Video #4: SIT Mali: Dogon Mask Dance

Uploaded by lauracanski on Nov 4, 2009

Video #5: The Dogon Dance of the Mask

Uploaded by pyramidwarrior on Feb 11, 2008

The World Famous Dogon people of Mali West Africa.doing a ceremonial Dance.

Video #6: Mali 2009 - Dogon mask dance

Uploaded by AbiBlyth on Jan 26, 2009

Video #7: Dogon Sigi Ritual Dances

Uploaded by imgjp on Feb 18, 2007

"A video of Dogon masked dancers. Made in Mali January 2007."

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