The Status of Dogon Visual Culture

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

Dogon woman on her way to the market of Songo, Mali, 1986. Photo by Mary Kujawski Roberts and Allen F. Roberts. Submitted by Allen F. Roberts.


Everyday Dogon life includes a cycle of outdoor markets, where food, crafts, imported products, and services are traded or purchased. This woman is picking her way down steep stone steps of the market of Songo, Mali, carrying a new pot on her head and her toddler under her arm. Markets are occasions for gossiping, flirting, and politicking as well as commerce, and women often dress in their finest to see and be seen. This young woman's attractive blue-black indigo clothing is probably locally woven and dyed, while the sling holding her baby (which seems to be slipping off) may be locally woven and dyed with industrial colors, or it could be a trade item from Bamana or another neighboring ethnic group. The child’s blue shirt may be imported to Africa from Europe or America, either as new or as used clothing. As remote as Dogon communities may seem, then, they are cosmopolitan as goods and ideas are traded widely.