The Status of Dogon Visual Culture

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

Dogon dwellings, Mali. Photo by Mary Kujawski Roberts and Allen F. Roberts. Submitted by Allen F. Roberts.


Dogon dwellings are constructed according to an appropriate architecture, making them both practical places to live and comfortable in the blazing heat. Their flat roofs are used for everyday chores such as drying foodstuffs, storage, and for sleeping to catch cooling night breezes away from mosquitoes. The thatched structures are granaries (silos) where grain and other food is kept. Rains and intense sun take their toll, and thatch becomes dark and dilapidated with age, and must be replaced periodically. Here new straw can be seen stored on a rooftop in the foreground, perhaps in anticipation of building a new granary roof. Pathways meander among the buildings and animal pens. Such densely clustered buildings tell us something about Dogon sensibility, for surely only people who are able and willing to get along with each other can live in such close contact.