Door lock

20th century, 1950–2000
Artist Unidentified

Object Place: Mali


Overall: 42.7 x 8.3 x 7.5 cm (16 13/16 x 3 1/4 x 2 15/16 in.) Height x width: 45 1/2 in. (115.6 cm) Lender Accessory: 2.8 cm (1 1/8 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


Not On View


Africa and Oceania, Contemporary Art


Decorative arts

This lock’s carving alludes to Bamana esoteric knowledge. The headdress, abstracted face and prominent neck evoke Komo, a power association that imparts its secret knowledge to its male members. 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.


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