Dogon Prestige Stool - Mali

Elaborate ceremonial stools of this kind were owned by the hogon, the supreme religious and political leader in each Dogon community. Rich with symbolism, the design and elaboration of these special stools draw inspiration from Dogon cosmology. The dual disks forming the base and seat are joined by a center post that represents the axis of the world, joining the earth and the heavens. Some sources have identified the figurative supports as protagonists from the Dogon account of Creation: four sets of twins, direct descendants of Nommo, the first living being. The undulating or zigzag motifs on the outward faces of these stools represent the fluid nature of Nommo, specifically the primordial ancestor LebeSerou, who takes the form of a serpent. They also represent rain, without which there could be no life. Crocodiles, which are associated with water and fertility, are also a theme frequently depicted in the imagery of Dogon stools.

Classically composed, this stool features four figural pairs carved robustly in relief with strong limbs and protruding bellies. With arms upraised, their curving bodies are integrated into the support structure, powerfully spanning or traversing the space between the upper and lower worlds. The elongated heads of the figures, stretching upward in layered shapes, suggest reptilian forms. A rich, black patina is present, particularly prominent on recessed surfaces, and the outermost edges and features of the stool are significantly smoothed away from long age and use.

18th century or earlier
Wood
15 ¾” h
Provenance:
- John J. Klejman, New York
- Faith-Dorian and Martin Wright Collection, New York, acquired from the above on February 5, 1974
#569
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