A Dogan Tellem Sculpture

Dogan-Mali; wood, matter-encrusted patina; about 100 years old.

Most of the African wood carvings in the West, even in museums, are no older than 100 years old, given that they are usually made of softwood and a prey to termites and other dangers in their original setting. Some, however, are of great antiquity, and many Dogan wood carvings, such as Tellem sculptures found on the bend of the Niger River have long been known to be even centuries old.

This is a rare Tellem sculpture carved by the Dogan tribe of Mali. The raised arms have great significance. The Dogan people live in a very arid climate. The arms of the sculpture are raised to the god Amma in supplication of rain. The Dogan people stored many of their sacred objects in caves. Another meaning of the sculptures raised arms could be symbolic of the motion of flying through these caves.

The figure is of overall elegant proportions, rising from a wood, matter-encrusted. base, with elongated torso supported by bent leg and a rounded abdomen leading to pendulous breasts. It wears a necklace adorned with an elaborately carved pendant around its neck, which is probably a status symbol. The ovoid head has sharply carved facial features, and the hair is clearly delineated. It has brown matter- encrusted patina on a light wood body. The piece is found in very good condition, unusual for an African artifact this old.

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