Kanaga Mask (Primary Title)

Unknown (Artist)

19th-20th century
wood, paint, fiber
Overall (with base): 40 7/8 × 16 × 10 in. (103.82 × 40.64 × 25.4 cm)
Overall (without base): 39 5/8 in. (100.65 cm)
Overall (base only): 5 3/4 in. (14.61 cm)
The vertical shaft and crossbars of Kanaga masks represent the connection between the celestial and earthly realms. In the orderly sequence of a Dogon dance, the Kanaga masks perform third, following dancers on stilts and the extremely tall sirige masks. These three ranks of abstract masks refer to the ancestors, the passage of time, and the celestial realm. After them come the masks that represent humans and animals.

In one of the most dramatic steps of all Dogon dances, the Kanaga wearers leap and then, bending and rotating quickly at the waist, swoop the mask downward to touch the dusty ground. This action represents Amma, the creator, bringing life and fertility to Earth. A Dogon Kanaga mask dance can be seen in the video room in thenext gallery.
From the Robert and Nancy Nooter Collection, Adolph D. and Wilkins C. Williams Fund
Image released via Creative Commons CC-BY-NC

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