By Carla Herling
Drake University (formerly University of Iowa)

Mali and Burkina Faso; Dogon peoples

Ancestor couple


H. 75 cm (30")

University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art, The Stanley Collection, X1986.356

Among many peoples, the ability to produce offspring is traced back to the primordial ancestors.  These are the first couple to settle in the area in which their descendants still live and farm.  These may be mythical characters who stand for essential social values and are represented by only the most generalized carved wooden figures, or they may be more recent ancestors whose names are preserved in the oral history of the family.  They are often represented by a pair of carved figures.  Here the man places his arm around the shoulders of his wife, linking the two and creating a symbol of the Dogon concept of order and stability in the world around them.