Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Great Mask (Imina na)

18th–19th century
Dogon peoples
Wood, pigment
H. 113 x W. 7 1/2 x D. 8 1/8 in. (287 x 19.1 x 20.6 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Lester Wunderman, 1977
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 350
Dogon commemorative performances are supervised and enacted by initiates of a powerful ritual organization known as Awa. Members of the Awa society are both the creators and the dancers of a vast corpus of Dogon mask forms. The Great Mask, Imina na, is a unique sculptural work of singular importance that serves as the focal point of Awa private and public gatherings. Although a mask in name and form, the Great Mask, is rarely worn. Instead its very presence transforms its surroundings into a place of mystical exchanges distinctive both in terms of its scale and its function as a ritual altar, the Great Mask serves as a communal emblem of Dogon spiritual life.

Every sixty years, Awa sponsors the carving of a new Great Mask as part of the preparations surrounding the Sigui celebration. These two events embrace ideas of renewal as well as the collective commemoration of an entire generation of elders. The Awa society uses natural shelters, such as caves at the outskirts of settlements, to store ritual objects, and it is there that a community preserves its Great Masks of the past and present.
Marcel Griaule (1898-1958), Mali, collected 1930s (?); [Hélène Kamer, New York and Paris, until 1972]; Lester Wunderman, New York, 1972–1977

Langlois, Pierre. Art Soudanais: Tribus Dogon. Collection Arts plastiques. Brussels and Lille: Éditions de la Connaissance, 1954.

Griaule, Marcel. Conversations with Ogotemmeli: An Introduction to Dogon Religious Ideas. London: Oxford University Press, 1965.

Dieterlen, Germaine. "Les ceremonies soixantenaires du Sigui chez les Dogon." Africa vol. 41, no. 1 (1971).

Laude, Jean. African Art of the Dogon: The Myths of the Cliff Dwellers. New York: Brooklyn Museum, 1973, no. 89.

Imperato, Pascal James. "The art of Mali's Mountain People." In Dogon Cliff Dwellers. New York: L. Kahan Gallery, New York, 1978.

DeMott, Barbara. Dogon Masks: A Structural Study of Form and Meaning. Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1982.

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