SIGUI Picture

Depicted in all its colours and deified splendour, Sigui masquerade embodies the spiritual link between the people of Dogon and their ancestors. The Dogon people of Mali, West Africa, are best known for their mythology, mask dances, wooden sculptures and architecture. One these extraordinary works of art is displayed during the Sigui festival, which takes place every 65 years, symbolizing the dead of the first ancestor before humanity acquired speech.

Preparation for the festival starts in a village called Youga Dogorou and for months or years goes round the other villages to finally return to Youga Dogorou where it comes to an end. Men appear in masquerades dancing in long processions. The Sigui, being a secret society open to men alone called the Oloubarou, has a secret language no woman is allowed to learn. This language is fundamental in the ceremony. Preparations for the ceremony begin well in advance, during which these men go hiding for three months in a place where no human eyes could be set on them. Other inhabitants of the Dogon villages show great fear and reverence for the Oloubarou as these emotions are cultivated in them through prohibition by means of a warning night sound preventing them from going out when the Oloubarous are out. The great Mast, or the Mother of Masks is the most important mast of the Sigui ritual. Its length of a several meters is held up by the bearer whose face is concealed. The great mast is recreated every 65 years.
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