Trust, Tiger, Dogon Lion, & Chiwara

On 8/23/2010 Tiger Woods got his first divorce. While his mental fortitude is amazing his lack of a working moral compass resulted in a much publicized series of extra marital affairs and a dramatic failure in his ability to contend at PGA tourneys. This is admittedly a stretch of a segway into this blog (which deals mainly with African Tribal Art), but I believe that initiation periods for both young men and young women are an important option in developing the moral fabric of communities.

Bambara : Chiwara - Male and Female

Coincidentally  I finally paid off on the Bambara pieces shown. They represent a half man, half antelope being (shape shifter for TrueBlood fans), who first showed man how to farm and till the soil. What was most interesting was the payment plan. I paid over several months (lost the bill actually) , but I was taken at my word for the remaining price. It’s a fantastic feeling to be able to walk into a store in Manhattan and not only  to NOT be viewed with suspicion, but to be viewed as a trusted client. I had to admit that even intangible collateral benefits are appreciated. The Bambara culture uses age and caste cofraternities and the chi wara ton society passes on necessary farming skills.

Dogon : Lion Mask

The other piece I picked up was the Dogon Lion mask shown.  (See “The Five Things One Should know about the Dogon” blog). It had been advertised as a “Monkey mask”, which was actually quite a close guess. The patina was severely encrusted, which seems to be a characteristic of the wood used. The age cracks spread in a radial pattern from the top of the head as well, forming a very pleasing pattern. The seller was very interesting, a musician/historian type and I consider myself very lucky to come across this particular piece. The mask itself is used in a masquerade to lead the spirits of the dead away from the  village. This is “the closing of the mourning period”  and is handled by the “Awa” men’s association.

The Dogon also use societies to assist adolescents in bridging the gap to adulthood.

Male and female associations are entrusted with the initiations that take place by age group, tonno, corresponding to groups of newly circumcised or excised boys or girls. The members of an age group owe one another assistance until the day they die. Initiation of boys begins after their circumcision, with the teaching of the myths annotated by drawings and paintings. The young boy will learn the place of humans in nature, society, and the universe. Dogon mythology is so complex that a griot needs a week to recite it in its entirety.”[1]

In the absence of special Associations however the responsibility and onus lies with parents to fill the role or find the best proxy of a moral guide for their children. It is clear from this episode in TW’s life that the repercussions can be very detrimental … as my grandmother used to say, “Bend the tree, whilst it’s young”.


[1] http://www.jembetat.com/info.cfm?tribe=Dogon

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2 Responses to Trust, Tiger, Dogon Lion, & Chiwara

  1. This a fabulous post and may be one that needs to be followed up to see what happens

    A chum emailed this link the other day and I will be eagerly anticipating your next write. Proceed on the super work.

    • Hi, as a social construct marriage is the cornerstone of most organized societies but very often we learn as we go along, in effect training on the job. We definitely need to do much better :0)

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