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Dogon Kanaga mask

Dogon Kanaga mask
Dogon Kanaga maskDogon Kanaga maskDogon Kanaga maskDogon Kanaga mask
Tribe: Dogon
Country: Mali
Ritual: Burial / Memorial
Name: Kanaga
Materials: Wood, animal hide, rope netting, iron, wire, nails
Provenance: Coll. Begnimato Village, Dogon Valley, Mali by Andrew Turley 2007
Comments: This mask was acquired from Amaneou Togo whose father is the guardien of masks in Begnimato on Bandiagara Escarpment - I was able to visit the grove. Amaneou's grandfather Amafongorou carved the mask circa 1965 and it was decommissioned 2006.

Over 70 anthromorphic and zoomorphic mask types made of plant fiber or wood, have been recorded amongst the Dogon. Made by members of the Awa society they appear during dama memorials for the dead and the baga-bundo rites performed by small numbers of masqueraders before the burial of a Dogon male.

One of the most widespread types is the kanaga which represents a bird known as kommolo tebu. Its origin is traced back to a mythical hunter who, having killed one of these birds, fabricated the first kanaga mask in its likeness

A characteristic feature of this type is the form of dual cross with short bars extending upwards and downwards from the ends of the crossbars. The top end of the vertical central plank is sometimes adorned with an abstract shape, tufts of red fibre, an animal figure or with representations of human figures. Since such figures were often damaged or destroyed during repeated use of the mask, fully preserved examples are rarely found in western collections.

The cololur scheme of the superstructure evokes the black and white feathers of the kommolo tebu bird. Also carefully painted is the helmet portion into which a rectangular face with large eyeholes has been carved, leaving the thin, vertical ridge of the nose and the cone shaped beak/mouth standing.


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  2. A History of Art in Africa. Harry N. Abrams. 2001.
  3. African Sculpture Speaks. Ladislas Segy. 1975.
  4. Masks of Black Africa. Ladislas Segy. 1976.