Thunar Jentsch: Die steinernen Wächter der Dogon. Ein unbekannter Kult im Siedlungsgebiet der Dogon, Mali (Westafrika) (Teil 1)


An unknown cult with an individual orientation exists among the Dogon who settle around Bandiagara and its well known rock face, the so-called Falaise of Bandiagara, in Mali. The usage of different types of sculptured stones, varying in design and shape was part of this cult. Those stones came along as human figures, heads, faces, zoomorphic figures like chameleons, lizards, snakes or horses, dancing masks and architectural reproductions of the Dogon as well as ghost beings. A private heritage of nearly 500 objects, acquired mostly between 1950 and 1970 by the recently deceased German collector Werner Gerhard Jentsch, led to a survey by his son in the country of the Dogon, between February and March 2016, because he did not find anything about the cult or the sculptured stones in anthropological museums or scientific articles. The result was astonishing. The survey of 16 Dogon villagers (chiefs of the village, blacksmiths and art dealers) in 20 different villages (in the plain, on the plateau and along the rock face) verifies the wide extension of the cult throughout the Dogon country in former times. The knowledge of the cult is still exists today, whereas it turned out to be impossible to find out anything about the relation of the different sculptured stones to different villages, even though the Dogon have a significant knowledge about the production of these sculptured stones. Some of them, due to their special shape or former use as grain stones, are called “sky stones” because people believe that they had been sent to earth by lightnings. The cult has been given up with the beginning of Islamisation in the first decades of the 20th century.

[Africa, Dogon, Mali, amba som – ceremony, tibu dege – sculptured stones, sky stones, individual cult, culture change]