TITLE: Dogon Kanaga
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Mali
ETHNICITY: Dogon
DESCRIPTION: Kanage Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Dama
FUNCTION: Funeral
AGE: Mid to late 20th century
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: pigment; string

The Dogon people of Mali use a tremendous variety of masks, most of which center around funeral rites, known as Dama. Traditionally, the Awa Society controlled the use of masks, such as this kanaga.  The kanaga is used in funerals to usher the spirit of the dead from the village back to its proper place in the bush.  Along with the mask, the dancer wears a hood of plaited fiber to cover the back of the head, and a costume of black and red woven cloth embroidered and decorated with cowrie shells and beads.  The kanaga dancer also wears a pair of woven pants and a long skirt of black, red, and yellow plant fibers.

The mask represents a god, the crossbars representing arms and legs, as well as the arrangement of the world, with the upper bar representing the sky and the lower bar representing the earth.  As in other African masking traditions, the white color of the superstructure indicates the spirit world.