Dege Dal Nda ('Sculptures of the Terrace' Figure)

By: Adenike Cosgrove Tagged:


Unlike other Dogon figures, the dege dal nda (meaning 'sculptures of the terrace') are not believed to contain ancestor spirits. They are instead used for purely decorative purposes during the funeral of rich men. Cleaned and polished with shea butter, tree sap, soot and oil before display, once prepared the figure is positioned on the roof terrace of the deceased man's home.

Some sources1 point to dege dal nda figures as female ancestor figures (i.e. containing the spirits of deceased female ancestors) used for protection against infertility. Owned by women, it is suggested that the figures are brought out during births to ensure a safe delivery.

When not in use, the figures are stored in the home of the the town hogon (chief priest responsible for religious ceremonies and rituals).

Distinguishing Features

  • Covered with thin layer of tree sap, soot & oil
  • Female figure
    • Conical breasts
  • Human body rendered in simplified form
    • Elongated and geometric form
  • Hair styled in braided or plaited effect
    • Thin cylindrical protrusion below the chin,
    • Dorsal braid falling down the nape of the neck or,
    • Braids on either side of head
  • Defined button-shaped eyes or simple holes
  • C-shaped ears
  • Arrow or T-shaped nose
  • Long slender torso
  • Protruding belly botton
  • Seven bracelets on arms
  • Openwork arms bent at the elbows
  • Hands sit under protruding stomach
  • Standing position with bent legs
  • Ankle chains on both legs
  • Scarification marks on breasts, stomach, neck, and above ankles

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