Its earliest troglodyte inhabitants were the Tellem, hunters-gatherers who built granaries and used pottery 2000 years ago. 500 years ago the Tellem were expelled by the Dogon farmers who used the caves to keep their ritual objects safe from unwanted use.
The Dogon civilization was studied on the spot by Marcel Griaule who collected objects from 1931 to 1933 for the Musée du Trocadéro and managed in 1946 a long interview with a blind old man who endeavored to understand the oral traditions of his ethnic group.
A Dogon figure from Bandiagara was sent to Paris in the 1950s by an African merchant. 57 cm high, it shows a nude woman kneeling on the skull of a male mask. This feature unique in African art is undoubtedly the sign of a very old age, perhaps more than 300 years. Its thick patina testifies to an intensive ritual use.
Died in 1956, Griaule was not able to study this exceptional specimen but his observations help for the interpretation. The man-woman duality of an object, which sometimes leads to hermaphroditism in the earliest pieces, is a cult of the primordial couple offering both strength and fecundity. The kneeling position of women is an attitude described by Griaule amidst the Dogon funeral rites.
This figure was sold at Paris (Drouot) on 30 June 1994 by De Quay-Lombrail for 2.3 MF, a very high price at that time for an African mask. It is estimated € 2.5M for sale by Christie's in Paris on April 4, lot 82.
SOLD for € 2.37M including premium