West Africa, Mali, Dogon people, ca. early 20th century CE. A massive wooden support pole or house post for a togu na (also toguna), a great shelter found in every Dogon village. The pole is Y-shaped at its upper end, branching outward to hold up the roof of the structure. Below that, the post is a wide planar surface with two erotic figures carved in high relief on its face. One of these is a male figure with an elongated neck and a round, bald head with deeply excavated eyes, large ears, and a huge nose. Below the neck, the body is stylized, with a long, rectangular torso and arms of similar rectangular form hanging down at the figure's sides. The legs splay outward, accommodating the oversized genitalia of the obviously male figure. Below him is an upside down female figure, also with oversized genitalia and large breasts that dwarf her head and raised arms. Size: 26.25" W x 62.25" H (66.7 cm x 158.1 cm); 63.5" H (161.3 cm) on included custom stand.
The togu na is the meeting place in the community for male elders. This post would have been about 5.5 feet tall when first made, meaning that the men would have had to crouch and sit inside the low-hanging roof of the shelter - creating a secretive space for sharing confidences and making decisions. The overtly sexual nature of the figures carved on this post symbolize the future of Dogon society - the generations to come from the fertility of the men and women in the community.
See a very similar example at the Art Institute of Chicago (2007.570).
Provenance: private Colorado, USA collection; ex-private Palm Springs, California, USA collection, acquired before 1965
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Inactive insect damage and weathering have led to some losses to the peripheries of the piece and some fissures on the surface. The very bottom of the post is lost, but the vast majority of the piece is present. The form is well preserved as is much of the carved artwork. Rich patina on the wooden surface.