Dege (Black Monkey Mask)

By: Adenike Cosgrove Tagged:

Dogon masks come in many forms, from those made of fibre or wood, and in the shape of animals, humans, and abstract creations.

Before painting, the wooden masks are known as ajugo nüyü meaning "mask dead." Once painted, they become lajugo neyüyen, meaning "mask living."

The Dogon dance three types of monkey masks during Dama, a ceremony held every 10 – 15 years during a good harvest, performed as a means to guide the spirits of the deceased out of the village and into the realm of spirits. The three monkey masks are dege (black monkey), omono (white monkey), and ko (red monkey).

Dege bears resemblance to a black monkey and usually appears only in comic recitals. The wearer sits to the side of the performance making obscene gestures — it's wild, uncivilised, dangerous and displays anti-social behaviours.

Masks used in dramatic performances can never be sold or discarded for fear of dugu (sorcery) plaguing the wearer.

Distinguishing Features

  • Small iron hook sometimes attached to front of mask
  • Bulging forehead
  • Rectangular holes carved as eyes
  • Concave, arching vertical forms delineate nose and sides of head
  • Horizontal lines form mouth
  • Crusty patina
    • Traces of blood and millet beer found on surface

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