Mali,

Dogon Dancers

In Mali’s Dogon Country, an ancient ceremony that honours and celebrates the dead is still a part of everyday life

Writer

Katarina Höije

Photographer

Nakane Junichi

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As the sun slowly makes its way over a cliff in Mali’s Mopti region, a Dogon priest finishes his chant. Descending from a nearby mountain, a line of dancers makes its way into a sandy, open space amid a village of mud houses. Standing in line, one of the dancers, Makene Dolo, arches his back, rolls his shoulders and bobs up and down at the knee. He feels the handle of the wooden mask he wears rubbing against his teeth. Stomping and swirling to the beat of drums, the dancers kick up a cloud of dust as the speed and complexity of their movements intensifies.

The dance is the Dogon version of a funeral masquerade, a communal ritual performed to guide any reluctant spirits into the afterlife, where they can assume useful roles as ancestors. ‘When someone dies, we bury the body but the spirit stays with the family,’ says Dolo, a native of Sangha, a village in the heart of Dogon Country. ‘The dama escorts the spirit out of the village where it joins the ancestors.’

 

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In Mali’s Dogon Country, an ancient ceremony that honours and celebrates the dead is still a part of everyday life
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