The Status of Dogon Visual Culture

by Allen F. Roberts
University of California, Los Angeles (formerly University of Iowa)

Dogon ginna shrine, Mali, 1986. Photo by Mary Kujawski Roberts and Allen F. Roberts. Submitted by Allen F. Roberts


The checkerboard pattern seen on a binu sanctuary in the previous screen is reproduced in the pocketed facade of a ginna shrine of one of the several extended families among Dogon residing in Sanga, Mali. The indentations serve practical purposes as a dovecote and for storage of ritual materials, but more significantly, they constitute a sort of kinship chart, with most recent generations of ancestors occupying the lowest rows, closest to the everyday living space of people occupying the compound in which the shrine is located. The upper reaches are for honoring loved ones so long gone that details of their lives are no longer relevant, but who nonetheless answer prayers for welfare and bounty. That such a shrine should constitute a checkerboard informs the place with broader references to the Word of God, as “Woven” in the ordering of human existence.