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Artwork Details

carved wood and patination
25 3/16 in x 2 in x 11 5/8 in (64 cm x 5 cm x 29.5 cm)
Museum Purchase assisted by the Friends of the Museum of Art

On Display

Not currently on display


The principle carvers among the Dogon are blacksmiths, who also make weapons and agricultural implements. The form and stylized carving on this staff resemble a number of Dogon staffs, including the YO DOMMOLO. YO DOMMOLO are staffs which belong to the ritual thieves, or YONA, of Dogon villages. Every family head is considered a YONA, though younger individuals can be appointed as substitutes. "Ritual thievery" was instituted to commemorate the ancestral blacksmith's theft of fire, for humans, from the heavens, which was done with an open-mouthed stick. Thus, YO DOMMOLO are characterized by carved heads with open mouths, pointed ears, and a line of zigzags down the back. YONA are representative of the ancestral blacksmith. They each hold a portion of the life-force of the ancestral smith which, at a YONA's death, is given back through the YO DOMMOLO. Following the death of a YONA, YONA from the surrounding areas gather and dance with the staffs hung over their shoulders.

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