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Door Lock

African Art

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Door Lock

Artwork Details


Bamana Artist, Mali


ca. late nineteenth–early twentieth century



Accession #



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Currently Not on View


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.


Fred and Rita Richman Collection