Dogon Tellem figure, Mali
late 19th century*
ex collection of a Howard University professor, Washington, D.C.
A very old Dogon figure that at one point would have had both arms raised, but one is now missing. The gesture
of raised arms had been said to indicate communication between the earth and heaven specifically a prayer for
rain, an essential commodity in the arid environment in which the Dogon people live. This interpretation is
bolstered by the appearance of this gesture in actual Dogon ritual. The figure does not have legs, as is obvious in
the photos. I am not sure if the figure ever had legs, but I would assume so. The legs would have been broken off
far before the arm was because there is no indication of breakage on the bottom. The old patina on this figure is
incredible and is a testament to the figure's age. It is unfortunate the arm is missing, but it really doesn't distract
from this figure's overall presence in my opinion. It is a very nice example of this type of sculpture.