African, Mali, Bamana peoples
Object Place: Mali
Overall: 50.2 x 9.5 x 7 cm (19 3/4 x 3 3/4 x 2 3/4 in.)
Medium or Technique
Not On View
The Bamana are a Mande sub-group that inhabits present-day Mali. Amongst the Bamana, door locks were carved by blacksmiths from the wood of the toro tree (Ficus congensis) and used to lock the doors of houses and granaries. The door lock is comprised of three parts: A sculpted vertical beam, a horizontal beam that slides into a cut-out in the horizontal beam, and a locking mechanism, which could be made from metal or wood. The vertical beam can take many forms and was traditionally inspired by family totemic animals. These animals possessed protective qualities and were the objects of veneration. In addition to animal figures, blacksmiths also carved ancestral figures and other human forms, some of which were highly stylized while others displayed a greater sense of realism.
This anthropomorphized figure’s head is a symbol of the komo secret society. The komo men’s society is one of the largest and most powerful of the secret societies amongst the Bamana and is a source of communal strength and solidarity.
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)
Gift of Geneviève McMillan in memory of Reba Stewart