Miniature Bronze Pendant of a Prostrate Figure
Dogon People, Mali
19th century & possibly earlier
Dogon blacksmiths were renown for their iron and bronze jewellery items, many of which are small and whimsical. The pendant here certainly is in that category. Cast using the lost wax process, it is tiny but detailed and shows a small figure laying prostrate, and with a prominent headdress of quiff.
Figures with their arms and legs out-stretched is one of the most common motifs in Dogon sculptural art – it is often seen in carved Dogon wood sculpture. various explanations have been offered for the gesture, including a representation of an important Dogon deity’s role in organising and purifying the universe, and a gesture that is indicative of a prayer for rain.
A rounded gap between the fingers in the right hand would have served as a small lug to allow the pendant to be suspended and worn.
There are no natural copper deposits in the Dogon areas of West Africa and so it is surmised that Dogon blacksmiths obtained their copper from trans-Saharan trade networks that brought copper from as far away as Spain. According to Ezra (1988, p. 110), Dogon copper-alloy smiths known as
jemo were itinerant workers and worked not only for other Dogon but also for Fulani and Mossi clients in neighbouring areas.
The pendant here is very fine and has a dark patina.
Ezra, K., Art of the Dogon: Selections from the Lester Wunderman Collection, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1988.
private collection, London.
Inventory no.: 4216