Door lock

20th century, 1950–2000
Artist Unidentified

Object Place: Mali


Overall: 37 x 6 x 6 cm (14 9/16 x 2 1/2 x 2 3/8 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Wood, iron

Not On View


Africa and Oceania, Contemporary Art


Decorative arts

This lock, once attached to the door of a house, granary, or poultry shelter, is an exquisite small carving with meanings derived from Bamana esoteric knowledge. It alludes to Komo, a power association that imparts its secret knowledge to its male members. A stylized rendering of the distinct Komo headdress (bamada) tops the figure’s heads. The tapering body recalls the head of a python, symbolizing the creator god.


1954, sold by Jacqueline Nicaud of the Galerie Burgui, Paris, to 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