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Door Lock

African Art

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Door Lock

Artwork Details

Artist/Maker

Bamana Artist, Mali

Date

ca. late nineteenth–early twentieth century

Medium

Wood

Accession #

1979.40.125

Dimensions

17 x 4 x 3 1/2 inches

Location

Currently Not on View

Description

This sculpture once secured a crossbar that held a door lock in place and provided its owners with physical and spiritual security. It is constructed from two pieces of wood placed crosswise, with an internal mechanism activated by a serrated key made of metal or wood. The lock’s severe, geometric forms contrast with the intricately incised marks that adorn its surfaces.
The sophisticated task of manufacturing door locks was the responsibility of blacksmith-sculptors—always men—who in Bamana societies inherit the right to work with wood and metal. The finished locks were used on the doors of homes, granaries, cookhouses, and sanctuaries, and often carried the signature artistic style of their particular maker. Though utilitarian in nature, each Bamana lock is conceived as an autonomous object and is given a name that corresponds with the figure, message, or myth that it represents.

Credit

Fred and Rita Richman Collection