The University of Iowa University of Iowa

MaliDogon artist

Granary door

Wood, iron

H. 74.6 cm (29 ¾”)

University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art, The Stanley Collection of African Art, X1986.179

Small wooden doors are used by the Dogon and other groups in the Western Sudan on mud brick granaries in which each family’s supply of millet is stored during the long dry season. In the past, these doors were secured by carved wooden locks. Because of the availability of modern padlocks and the demand for old wooden locks and doors on the Western art market, these objects are becoming increasingly rare in the villages. Because large pieces of suitably hard wood are difficult to find in the dry Sudan, most Dogon doors are made of two broad planks joined by metal staples or as in this example, by wooden brackets. The two posts on the right permitted the door to swing outward when the iron key, now attached to the door by a cord, was inserted in the lock, raising the pins and allowing the horizontal bar to slide back and forth (The University of Iowa Museum of Art, The Stanley Collection, X1986.300). The effectiveness of the lock in discouraging thieves is enhanced by the presence of ancestral spirits, represented by a male and female figure carved m high relief on the door panels. The careful placement and similarity of the additional ancestral male female pair on the lock itself indicates that the door and lock were carved at the same time.

Professor Christopher D. Roy, 1991

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