West African Art

History of African Art and Dogon people

The Dogon populate the central region of Mali in Africa, there are said to be between 400,000 and 800,000 in this civilization. It started in 1930 when French anthropologists recorded a strange legend from Dogon priests. Passed down through verbal tradition.

Their purpose and representation of African Art

Notes: Ideal couple, rocks have souls, symbols charm spirits, dance masks symbolises world, wearing it means you’ll get power. Togunas, lead souls to place, ‘nyama’ life force.

Usually representing spirits, ancestors or the primordial couple, figures such as these were placed in shrines and treated with great respect. Ritual is an integral part of the Dogon culture. Their cultural rites reflect awareness of the necessary harmony between the human spirit, the land, and surrounding animal life. Certain masks that were worn would either represent death or represent things important to them, such as the first human beings. It is all very cultural.


They are from the Bandiagara Cliffs of southern Mali, West Africa.

The Dogon have survived for centuries, withstanding constant slave raiding parties. The Dogon have evolved a keen sense of cultural preservation and an ability to withstand outside forces of change. Today, some 300,000 Dogon live along a roughly 125-mile-long (200-kilometer) of land against the Badiagara Cliffs. Many live among 700 or so small villages with populations of less than 500.


Some Toguna represented the Primordial Couple. The myths are, according to their ancestors, is that the earth and the sky are two disks connected at their centres by a tree they call ‘the axis mundi’. The primordial couple is represented sitting on a stool, the base which depicts the earth, while the upper surface represents the sky.

Contemporary African Art

Today, some african art consists of being in the form of a coffin. In Ghana, there are people who would design a coffin for you based on your past. The coffins are designed to represent an aspect of the dead person’s life, such as a car if they were a driver, a fish if their livelihood was the sea or a sewing machine for a seamstress. They might also symbolize a habbit, such as a bottle of beer or a cigarette.