Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Dogon granary doors

On page 36, footnote 63, I note that,

In some ancient/primitive cultures, such as that of the Dogon of Mali, granary doors bears elaborate carvings that depict, among other wonders, the Nommo, the Dogon's primordial ancestors, who have now descended from heaven to bring fertility to Earth, and stand with their arms raised, praying for rain, rebirth and regeneration.

On this particular granary door, four Nommo stand with their arms raised, beseeching others of their kind to favor the Dogon with rain and a good harvest. There is a rhythm here that I find appealing: down from sky, up to the heavens. It is played twice: the ancestors come down and stand up; and the rain they request comes down and the crops stand up. This rhythm also plays in sync with the way grain behaves: "When it is stored in a 'raised floor building,' grain will pour down like a liquid if a door at the bottom of the building is opened" (American Colossus, page 36).

Note that the catalogue for the auction of Dogon granary doors held at Sotheby's on 12 May 2005 -- the bidding started at around $5,000 per item -- mentions a different kind of rhythm (open and shut, not down and up): "the granary itself is often associated with the celestial ark of origins and creation among the Dogon. The door itself can be likened to a heartbeat with its opening and closing[,] signaling the vitality of the granary to Dogon life."

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