Near the eastern edge of Mali, near the Burkina Faso border, live the Dogon people. Their villages are very typical and beautiful. Let me show you how it is !
One of the most visited areas of Mali, the area known as Dogon Country is a rather isolated area inhabited by about 350,000 (some say 800,000) Dogon people. This area is located near the eastern edge of Mali, near the Burkina Faso border.
The Dogon people live in a series of villages along the Badiagara escarpment in three zones: the plateau, the cliff, and the lower plains. They arrived on the scene in the 14th or 15th century, after fleeing their lands along the Niger, refusing to convert to Islam. They displace the Tellem people, whose cave-like homes are still intact high on the cliffs above the Dogon villages.
The Dogon people are agricultural. They irrigate their fields of millet, cotton, and onions with buckets. Their religious beliefs are predominantly animist, which means they attribute a living soul to natural objects and phenomena. Dogon villages have some distinctive structures. The open low-ceiling structure are Togu Na (Case à palabres, Talking place). Only men are allowed to hang out in the Togu Na. Disputes are settled in these structures; the low roof is high enough to sit under, but too low for standing and fighting.
Another type of distinctive structure is the granaries. They look like shoe boxes on end, topped by thatched roofs that look like witches hats. They are used for storing millet and household possessions. There’s also the house of the hogon. The hogon is a kind of spiritual chief of the villages. When elected, he lefts his house and his wives to a special house where he has to live alone. Nobody is allowed to touch him. During the night, the sacred snake Lébé comes to clean him and to transfer wisdom.
There are lots of sacred and taboo places in and out the villages, and it’s not easy to recognize them, when you are a tourist. So beware not to do bad things, or you’ll be obliged to pay for a sacrifice (a chicken, a goat,…) !