The horse-and-rider motif is more typically found on rings in the Dogon oeuvre, so it is somewhat rare to see it as a finial for a hairpin. Among the Dogon, the horse and rider is associated with heroic, powerful, victorious individuals.
The hairpin has been cast using the lost wax process, and is of solid brass. It has been cast as a single piece. The horse stands on a circular platform cast as a spiral (a motif that is frequently encountered in Dogon casting).
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 hairpin is in excellent condition, with a fine green-black patina and plenty of evidence of significant age.
Chemeche, G., The Horse Rider in African Art, Antique Collectors’ Club, 2011.
Roberts, A. F., Animals in African Art: From the Familiar to the Marvelous, Prestel, 1995.