Last updated
A toguna in the Malian village of Ende Togunat 01.JPG
A toguna in the Malian village of Endé

A toguna (or palaver hut), also written as togu'na or togu na (meaning "great shelter") [1] is a public building erected by the Dogon people in the West African country of Mali. Togunas are usually located in the center of the village.

Togunas are built with a very low roof, with the express purpose of forcing visitors to sit rather than stand. This helps with avoiding violence when discussions get heated. They are used by the village elders to discuss problems of the community, but can also serve as a place for customary law. [2]

In practice, the toguna is used as a general gathering spot in the center of the village, offering shade and relief from the midday heat, where the village elders spend the hottest hours of the day talking with each other.

Toguna are celebrated artworks and artifacts in galleries, museums, and private collections across the world with their relief carvings of men or women with exaggerated genitalia to represent fertility and the Dogon society's future. [3]

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Dogon people</span> Peoples indigenous to Mali

The Dogon are an ethnic group indigenous to the central plateau region of Mali, in West Africa, south of the Niger bend, near the city of Bandiagara, and in Burkina Faso. The population numbers between 400,000 and 800,000. They speak the Dogon languages, which are considered to constitute an independent branch of the Niger–Congo language family, meaning that they are not closely related to any other languages.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">African art</span> Art originating from indigenous Africans or the African continent

African art describes the modern and historical paintings, sculptures, installations, and other visual culture from native or indigenous Africans and the African continent. The definition may also include the art of the African diasporas, such as: African American, Caribbean or art in South American societies inspired by African traditions. Despite this diversity, there are unifying artistic themes present when considering the totality of the visual culture from the continent of Africa.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bandiagara Escarpment</span> Escarpment in Dogon country of Mali

The Bandiagara Escarpment is an escarpment in the Dogon country of Mali. The sandstone cliff rises about 500 m (1,600 ft) above the lower sandy flats to the south. It has a length of approximately 150 km (90 mi).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Marcel Griaule</span> French author and anthropologist

Marcel Griaule was a French author and anthropologist known for his studies of the Dogon people of West Africa, and for pioneering ethnographic field studies in France. He worked together with Germaine Dieterlen and Jean Rouch on African subjects. His publications number over 170 books and articles for scholarly journals.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Traditional African masks</span> Ritual and ceremonial mask of Sub-Saharan Africa

Traditional African masks play an important role in certain traditional African rituals and ceremonies.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tellem</span>

The Tellem were the people who inhabited the Bandiagara Escarpment in Mali between the 11th and 16th centuries CE. The Dogon people migrated to the escarpment region around the 14th century. In the rock cells of this red cliff, clay constructions shelter the bones of the Tellem as well as vestiges witnessing to their civilization, which existed well before that of the Dogons.

The Tribal Eye is a seven-part BBC documentary series on the subject of tribal art, written and presented by David Attenborough. It was first transmitted in 1975.

Religion in Mali is predominantly Islam with an estimated 95 percent of the population are Muslim, with the remaining 5 percent of Malians adhere to traditional African religions such as the Dogon religion, or Christianity. Atheism and agnosticism are believed to be rare among Malians, most of whom practice their religion daily, although some are Deist.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Dogon country</span> Region of Mali and Burkina Faso

Dogon country is a region of eastern Mali and northwestern Burkina Faso populated mainly by the Dogon people, a diverse ethnic group in West Africa with diverse languages. Like the term Serer country occupied by the Serer ethnic group, Dogon country is vast, and lies southwest of the Niger River belt. The region is composed of three zones: the plateau, the escarpment and the Seno-Gondo plain.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hogon</span>

A Hogon is a spiritual leader in a Dogon village who plays an important role in Dogon religion.

Ben Tey Dogon, named after the village Been it is spoken in, is a divergent, recently described Dogon language spoken in Mali. It is closely related to Bankan Tey and Nanga Dogon. It is said that elders in the Dogon village of Gawru also speak this language. Been is reported to have been settled from the village of Walo, and Ben Tey Dogon differs from Walo Dogon primarily from being under a different foreign influence, as Been village is surrounded by Jamsay-speaking villages, which Walo is not.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Denise Paulme</span> French ethnologist, anthropologist

Denise Paulme (1909–1998) was a French Africanist and anthropologist. Her role in African literary studies, particularly in regards to the importance of Berber literature, was described as "pivotal".

Dan Na Ambassagou is an ethnic Dogon militia in Mali. The militia was setup in 2016 to defend Dogon communities against attacks, which has led to a number of conflicts with members of the Fula community. They accuse the Fula of sympathizing with or sheltering Islamist militants in their villages. They are run by Youssouf Toloba.

Youga Dogorou is one of the Dogon villages in Mali. It is one of the Youga group of villages, the others being Youga Piri and Youga Na. The village is about 12km northeast of Banani.

The Lebe or Lewe is a Dogon religious, secret institution and primordial ancestor, who arose from a serpent. According to Dogon cosmogony, Lebe is the reincarnation of the first Dogon ancestor who, resurrected in the form of a snake, guided the Dogons from the Mandé to the cliff of Bandiagara where they are found today.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Binou (Dogon religion)</span>

The Binou is a Dogon totemic, religious order and secret ceremonial practice which venerates the immortal ancestors. It can also mean a water serpent or protector of a family or clan in Dogon. It is one of the four tenets of Dogon religion—an African spirituality among the Dogon people of Mali. Although the Dogons' "Society of the Masks" is more well known, due in part to Dogon mask–dance culture which attracts huge tourism, it is only one aspect of Dogon religion, which apart from the worship of the Creator God Amma, a rather distant and abstract deity in the Dogon world-view, is above all made up of ancestor veneration. The Binou serves as one of the four aspects of Dogon religion's ancestor veneration. Other than the Binou and the worship of Amma, the other three aspects of the religion includes the veneration of Lebe, which pertains to an immortal ancestor (Lebe) who suffered a temporary death in Dogon primordial time but was resurrected by the Nommo; the veneration of souls; and lastly, the Society of the Masks, which relates to dead ancestors in general. These myths are in oral form—known to us in a secret language. They form the framework of Dogon's religious knowledge, and are the fixed Dogon's sources relating to the creation of the universe; the invention of fire, speech and culture.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Awa Society</span>

Awa, also known as the Awa Society, the Society of Masks, is an African mask and initiatory society of the Dogon people of Mali which is made up of circumcised men, and whose role is both ritual and political within Dogon society. The Awa Society takes an important role in Dogon religious affairs, and regularly preside over funereally rites and the dama ceremony—a ritual ceremony that marks the end of bereavement in Dogon country. This Society is one of the important aspect of Dogon religious life—which is primarily based on the worship of the single omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent Creator God Amma and the veneration of the ancestors. Although it is only one aspect of Dogon's religious sects, it is perhaps more well known than the others partly due to Dogon mask–dance culture which attracts huge tourism, and their masks highly sought after, and in fact, one of the first to be sought after by art collectors in the west.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Nommo Award</span> African literary award

The Nommo Award is a literary award presented by The African Speculative Fiction Society. The award is named after the Nommo. The awards recognize works of speculative fiction by Africans, defined as "science fiction, fantasy, stories of magic and traditional belief, alternative histories, horror and strange stuff that might not fit in anywhere else." The Nommo Awards have four categories for best Novel, Novella, Short Story, and Graphic Novel.

The Kanaga mask is a mask of the Dogon of Mali traditionally used by members of the Awa Society, especially during the ceremonies of the cult of the dead.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Palaver (custom)</span> Custom of meeting

In Africa, the palaver is a custom of meeting, and of creating or maintaining social links. It is an egalitarian institution in which all or part of a village community participates. This custom also makes it possible to settle a dispute without violence. In many cases, a village has a traditional house or other place dedicated to the palaver.


  1. Stanley, Janet L. (1985). "AFRICAN ART AND AAT". Art Documentation: Journal of the Art Libraries Society of North America. 4 (3): 103–105. ISSN   0730-7187.
  2. Anne Doquet, Sory Camara, Les masques dogon:ethnologie savante et ethnologie autochtone, Karthala editions, 1999 p.253
  3. Dogon (1900–1975), Support Post (Toguna) , retrieved 2022-09-22