Dogon Satimbe Mask with Female Figure Mali
Early history is informed by oral traditions, which claim that the Dogon originated from the west bank of the Niger River (10th to 13th centuries). They emigrated west to northern Burkina Faso, where local histories describe them as kibsi. Around 1490, they fled a region now known as the northern Mossi kingdom of Yatenga when it was invaded by Mossi calvary. They ended up in the Bandiagara cliffs region, safe from the approaching horsemen. Carbon-14 dating techniques used on excavated remains found in the cliffs suggest that there were inhabitants in the region before the arrival in the Dogon, dating back to the 10th century. Those Dogon who did not flee were incorporated into Mossi society and were known as the nyonyose, or descendants of the first inhabitants.
Dogon masks surmounted by female figures are called satimbe, commemorating a mythological woman who first discovered and wore a mask. According to myth, her husband stole this mask, and from that time on Dogon women have been prohibited from wearing or coming close in contact with masks. The satimbe also represents the Yasigne, or "sisters of the mask", women who are born during the sigi festival, held every sixty years to honor the apprearance of death among humans.
The yasigne are the only women allowed to approach the masks and are involved in the performaces. Today, Dogon masks are used less often for dama festivals and are instead worn during secular performances, either greeting visiting tourists or in the celebration of civic events. Unlike Contemporary satimbe masks, which are more naturalistic in their stylization of the human form, this mask has a more minimalist and abstract form.