Dogon Crocodile Mask

   Waka Kakada or Crocodile Mask
  Waka Kakada or Crocodile Mask

The Dogon people of Mali, West Africa, tell an ancient tale of the migration to their home – a giant cliff in the middle of the Sahara known as the Bandiagara Escarpment. On their way they ran out of water; becoming frightened, weak, and disoriented until a giant crocodile appeared. The massive creature beckoned them to follow, which they did despite their fear. Keeping a respectful distance, they soon saw the crocodile disappear into some far off bushes; and when they approached – to their amazement – they found a creek with clear water. Meanwhile, the crocodile disappeared, along with their opportunity to say thanks.       

This mask is rubbed white with kaolin and patterned with indigo dye  
This mask is rubbed white and red clay and patterned with indigo dye  

This week’s New Arrival features a Dogon mask stylized in the form of a crocodile. Called a waka kakada, it honors the spirit of the ferocious animal who saved the people by extending an act of kindness. The carved wood is painted with white and red clay, and then further colorized with indigo dots derived from the plants that grow along the cliff. Among the Dogon, the color blue is emblematic of high status and prestige. It’s only fitting it appears on the mask of an animal the Dogon hold in such high regard. It also reminds us of the obligation to recognize and honor all the animals impacting our lives.

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Part of a much larger collection of authentic African art