Dogon Equestrian Figure, Southern Cliff, Bongo Village, Mopti region, Republic of Mali
height 10 1/4in (26cm)
finely carved with a man with a beard conveying his elderly style, kneeling on an apparatus, in a position reminiscent of the typical equestrian figure; fine encrusted varied dark-brown patina.
Pierre Verite, Paris
Private Collection, Los Angeles
In Mali, the horse played an important role in the earlier empires. Though the Dogon have no royal or military history, the equestrian figure remains a popular subject in their art. Conveying ideas of power, prestige and importance, the figure constantly appears in cultures throughout Africa embodying notions of authority. With a beard conveying his elderly style, this 19th century blacksmith is seen kneeling on an apparatus, in a position reminiscent of the typical equestrian figure. The segmented body parts and symmetrical forms are typical of the Dogon. The figure is rendered in the Niongom style of the southern cliffs of the Bongo village.
Much can be said about the surface patina of the sculptures from the Dogon region. Patina, the sheen on the surface of the statuary, can be used to determine the age of the relic. Dried crust patina is one the three types of patina most commonly on Dogon statuary. It consists of a very thick dried crust that cannot be imitated, most likely formed from crystallized sacrificial blood. Smooth patina is very even and usually a yellow beige color found on figures found in bat-infested caves. The excrement mixed with the sand forming yellow-beige coats of guano, covering the figure. This particular figure is coated with black patina, as a result of generations of use, and usually passed through fire and coated with shea butter and 'sa' oil.
cf. Ezra, Kate, The Art of the Dogon, (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1998).
cf. Leloup, Helene and Richard Serra, Dogon Statuary, (Strousbourg: Daniele Amez Publisher, 1994).