The DOGON exhibition presents Dogon culture and art history from the 10th century until today through more than 330 exceptional pieces from international collections and presented together for the first time in France.

  • Garden Gallery
  • Temporary Exhibitions ticket and twin ticket

From Tuesday 5th April to Sunday 24th July 2011

Exhibition curator : Hélène Leloup, Dogon art specialist

the exhibition

Dogon area (Mali) art ranks among the best known art created by African cultures. /The art from the Dogon area is considered as one of the best known art created by African cultures.

Along with the masterpieces that have brought fame to Dogon art, the exhibition presents religious and everyday objects that reflect the metaphysical and aesthetic concerns of the populations who made them. The typology of the major sculptural work, executed using a variety of complex techniques, has rarely been explored.

Over ten centuries of settlement history and artistic and cultural influences are thus explored through a unique ensemble of fundamental masterpieces and unknown, everyday objects, which reflect the progressive settlement of the Dogon area and its stylistic diversity.

The musée du quai Branly exhibition displays the power of the sculptural art developed by the Dogon, expressed in wood or metal, in large and impressive works or in small, powerful objects. Hélène Leloup

The exhibition path

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Maternité © musée du quai Branly, photo Hughes Dubois

In the 2000 m2 Garden Gallery, the DOGON exhibition is divided into three large thematic sections, representing the culture and art history of the Dogon people through a variety of artistic outputs.

Introduction: Dogon migrations, origins and history

Recent historical research on West Africa has revealed that populations in various areas of the region were not isolated. Migration waves, caravan itineraries, long-distance commercial trade and exchanges with other Bandiagara peoples had left  an intricate network of contacts long before the arrival of Europeans. This is how the Dogon peoples could benefit from assets brought about by neighbouring civilizations.

First part: statuary styles in Dogon area

Beyond the apparent unity of a common identity built over the centuries, the statues in this part of the exhibition reveal the remarkable creativity of the Dogon people and the great diversity of its artistic production. It explores the underlying complexity of the Dogon area, falsely perceived as a cultural continuum.

Divided into different styles corresponding to diverse groups of peoples or geographical zones, 133 exceptional sculptures exemplify this wealth of diversity: Djennenke, N’Duleri, Tombo, Niongom and Tellem, Gogon-Mande,Tintam, Bombou Toro, Kambari, Komakan, and the styles of the Séno plain and escarpment.

Upon their arrival in the Bandiagara plateau, the Dogon encountered groups that had already settled in the region and had developed a material culture.
In the cliff’s area, Tellem sculptures and textiles found in the sanctuaries coexist with Niongom and Mande Dogon art, while Djennenke sculptures in the North of the plateau and Tombo pieces in its centre derive from different migration waves.

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Masque zoomorphe

Second part: anthropologist fascination: paintings and masks

In the West, the emerging interest for Dogon art, from the 1893 Bandiagara conquest onwards is, above all, a scientific pursuit, fully expressed by the Dakar-Djibouti Mission (1931-1933). This part of the exhibition explores the institutional methods used during the gathering of the first collections, which were the first step towards spreading knowledge of Dogon art in the West.

Two figures of the anthropological world, Louis Desplagnes and Marcel Griaule, exemplify how Dogon art captured European curiosity and taste.


* Rupestral paintings

In 1907, in his book entitled Le plateau central nigérien, Louis Desplagnes tells how he was the first to initiate research on Dogon art and culture after an expedition to the Bandiagara region. The cave art he discovered proved remarkable in terms of its lively and energetic expression. His collections were then handed to the Trocadéro Ethnography Museum.

About twenty rupestral paintings are presented in this subsection.

* Masks

In Masques dogons (1938), Marcel Griaule introduces a very precise ethnographic typology.

A popular research subject, the Dogon mask plays an important role in laying down the foundations of the ethnologic discipline. 35 Dogon masks recall the classification that structures his book.

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Volet de Grenier © musée du quai Branly, photo Thierry Ollivier, Michel Urtado
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Grande statue Djennenké acquise grâce au mécénat de AXA © musée du quai Branly, photo Patrick Gries

Third part: vessels of the sacred, collection items

Along with scientific endeavours and new field research missions, the fascination for Dogon objects and sculptures is increasing. Collectors are not only interested in Dogon statuary, but also in unique objects. A 35-minutes montage of excerpts from Jean Rouch’s Dama d’Ambarra (1974) adds to the first part of this sequence.

The 140 objects displayed in the last section reveal that Dogon sculptors tend to express the myth of the origins when creating everyday objects such as jewels, bronze and iron objects, pulleys, doors, locks, seats, headrests, animal sculptures, altars, arches, cups and plates. They evoke the same magical and theological subjects as the sculptures displayed in the first part.

At the end of the itinerary, the Pillars of Togu Na, the “House of Words” –open-constructions built in the centre of the Dogon villages - leads to the musée du quai Branly’s Djennenke statue, a fundamental Dogon masterpiece.