By Victoria Rovine
University of Florida (formerly University of Iowa)

MaliBamana peoples

Door lock

Wood, metal

W. 44.5 cm (17 ½”)

University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art, The Stanley Collection, X1986.300

Konbalabala (Bamana locks) often incorporate animals and human figures. These figures, etched or carved into the wood, are more than decorative. Depictions of animals often represent a particular family's sacred animals, placed on the lock to provide added protection. Human figures also serve a protective function. This lock depicts a male figure wearing the cap associated with hunters, its folds falling behind his ears. Hunters are highly respected and sometimes feared for their mastery of the skills, both physical and supernatural, that enable them to survive in the wilderness. Likewise this lock provides both physical and supernatural protection. In the field photograph a lock secures the door of a Bamana home.

Door lock and carved wooden breasts, Bamana peoples, Mali. Photo by Patrick McNaughton.