Kanaga Mask



In Dogon territory, the period between the death of a man and the end of the mourning ceremonies which close the funeral cycle is quite a long one. The family of a deceased person who had an important role in the society, gather goods that they can exchange to organize a dance. According to their myths, death came into the world as a result of primeval man’s transgressions against the divine order. Dama memorial ceremonies are held to accompany the dead into the ancestral realm and restore order to the universe. Whilst the family are preparing for these rituals, it is believed that the soul of the departed roams through the village and thus is a danger for the family and the whole village. The function of the dama is to conquer this secret force that originate from the deceased and direct it through the medium of masks to the sacred places where it will in some way or another be fixed. Sometimes the dama may last as long as six days The performance of masqueraders, sometimes as many as 400, at these ceremonies is considered absolutely necessary.

Kanaga bird mask represents the outstretched wings of a mythical bird (kommolo tebu). The triangular shape on the face of the mask is the jaw of the bird while the conical shape below is the tongue. The cross represents creation. The upper part of the cross symbolizes the supernatural world, and the lower part symbolizes the terrestrial world. The line between the two parts is the union between the two worlds. This mask is used as a dance mask at ceremonies to escort a dead soul to its final resting place and defend survivors from harm. In the ritual dance, the person with the mask bend down when he dance, pointing his cross at the ground with the intention to establish a link between earth and sky. Nowadays, the Dogon mask dance is mostly being performed to entertain tourists and merchants.


Height : 39″ (99.1cm) , Width : 21″ (53.3cm)