Door lock

African, Bamana peoples, Mali
20th century, 1950–2000
Artist Unidentified

Object Place: Mali


Overall: 41 x 34 x 7 cm (16 1/8 x 13 3/8 x 2 3/4 in.) Overall Width (body only): 7 cm (2 3/4 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Wood and metal

Not On View


Africa and Oceania, Contemporary Art


Decorative arts

This lock’s carving alludes to Bamana esoteric knowledge, specifically Komo, a power association that imparts its secret knowledge to its male members. The rectangular, elongated body stands on two legs, and triangles adorn its surface. Today such locks have essentially disappeared in Bamana country, replaced by foreign-made types. Many Bamana have converted to Islam and the visual associations of the older locks with the traditional way of the Bamana are no longer appreciated. As a result many locks were discarded or sold in the art market.


small white labels on back of body BC: "112(124)", "2"; on back of lock arm: "112(124)", "No. 13 Bambara Doorlock, Mali"; red plastic label on back of lock arm: "124"; fragment of white label with red border at TC on back, too faded to be legible.


1960s, acquired in Bamako, Mali by Geneviève McMillan (b. 1922 - d. 2008), Cambridge, MA; 2008, to the Geneviève McMillan and Reba Stewart Foundation, Cambridge; 2009, gift of the Geneviève McMillan and Reba Stewart Foundation to the MFA. (Accession Date: June 17, 2009)

Credit Line

Gift of Geneviève McMillan in memory of Reba Stewart