Mali Funeral Customs of the Dogon

by J-Touchette

In Mali, funerals are run usually as a standard Islamic funeral, since around 95% of their population is Islamic. The other 5% is majority Christian, with a tiny bit being traditional cultural beliefs of the country, one of those is Dogon.

They live in a small area of central Mali, where they remain immune to being integrated into the rest of Mali’s society, and they stay independent in their beliefs despite tourism. Their funerals are a grand affair with an audience and stage.

A leader within the village brings forth the dead in a death-shroud and clothing. Placing the body on the ritual stage, the leader picks up a spear and a mock spear battle occurs with another person who represents evil forces. Although each person has a unique piece of ritual that is passed down secretly from father to son.

Dogon musketeers then come on stage and begin a dance, each foot stepping to different beats. The musketeers then fire their muskets into the air and at the audience to scare away evil spirits.

To accompany the ceremony there is some drumming which is synchronized with whoops from the women, and the audience is sometimes moved around to create new formation. The audience heads back to the village at sundown where dancing goes on all night, and beer is served.

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