Masquerade costume

The Dogon people of Mali perform ceremonial dances dressed in striking masks and costumes. One such dance honours the dead: every morning and evening for up to six days, masqueraders dance in the village and surrounding fields – even on the deceased’s rooftop. Today, the Dogon also perform dances to entertain tourists.

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What is the meaning of the starburst shape at the centre of this masquerade costume and how does it relate to the use of the costume?

responded: Mar 31, 2010

Posted by Irene Yancheva

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The starburst found at the centre of this garment is circular in that it has a centre point from which rays, like those of the sun, radiate. This figure most certainly holds symbolic meaning for the Dogon people of Mali and is particularly significant in relation to the occasion at which this garment would be worn: funeral ceremonies. This figure symbolizes the circle of life, the cyclical nature of our being which involves life, death, and rebirth. By placing this figure at the centre of the masquerade costume, the process of regeneration is represented. Notions of wholeness, completeness, eternity, and perpetuity are conjured. The starburst, therefore, is representative of a deeply meaningful belief system that is especially important and is reinforced at funeral ceremonies.

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