The Dogon's Masked Dama Dance
Deep in the mountains of Mali, West Africa live a mysterious tribe called the Dogon. Known for their rituals, cosmology and mask dances, the Dogon perform a sacred ritual every few years which I am reminded of close to the American and Mexican holidays: Halloween and Day of the Dead.
Adorned in masks and costumes the dead are called upon to peacefully cross over to the other side. However this ritual is much more sacred and meaningful than costumes and candy...
Up in the mountains above the Dogon village, graveyard caves hold the bones of deceased members of the tribe. Before the ceremonial dance begins, Dogon men retreat to these caves and mourn the souls of the dead. While they are up here they also masterfully carve exquisite masks.
The Dama Ceremony
The Dogon perform these ceremonies to honor the passing of a respected elder. This dama dance ceremony will often last for three days and involve dozens of dancers representing figures from the animal world, male and female powers, and the afterworld.
Once the dama dance has been performed, the aged bones of the elder are placed high in the windswept Bandiagara cliffs in the caves for the dead.
The Sirige Mask
The visually powerful sirige mask is believed to bind the Dogon people to the celestial world of heaven and Earth. The mask's design, a straight line, serves to connect the two worlds through the conduit of the dancer and his body. Like all Dogon masks, the sirige belongs to the afterworld, the realm of where life and death meet. The dancers of the sirige mask are considered the most skilled. They use their teeth to balance the 20-foot (6-meter) high mask, which is carved from the limb of a single tree. Dancers swing the mask in sweeping motions to represent the arc of the sun.
Known throughout the world by anthropologists and art curators, their masks rank among the most respected within the world of tribal art collections and have even influenced such Western 20th-century artists as Picasso and Braque, even the Cubist movement.
Keeping in mind the spiritual significance of the Dogon's dance, try to remember the origins of the traditions you will be celebrating this weekend., whether it be Halloween , Day of the Dead or anything else you celebrate at other times of the year. Perhaps even teach your children about them and also enrich them with other culture's traditions.
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