DER Documentary

African Carving: A Dogon Kanaga Mask


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by Thomas Blakely and Eliot Elisofon
in collaboration with Robert Gardner for The Film Study Center at Harvard University
color, 19 min, 1974




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The Kanaga mask is used in deeply sacred rituals by the Dogon people of Mali. Carving this mask is as important a ritual as the ceremonies in which the mask is used. The carver, a blacksmith, finds the proper tree and, in a secret cave outside the village, he shapes the mask with gestures which repeat the movement of the dancers who will wear it. When a dancer wears the Kanaga mask he becomes the Creator symbolically. He touches the ground with his mask and directs a soul to Heaven. Although these dances are now frequently performed for the public, the meaning of Kanaga is retained by the Dogon who fear, respect and depend on the power of the mask.

This film contains Dama dance material from the Wunderman Foundation.

Film Festivals, Screenings, Awards
Forum for Visual Anthropology, Switzerland, 2009

View more photos on www.flickr.com

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