The art of Mali

The art of Mali takes many diverse forms, but it all celebrates the bonds of the communities that create it.

13th century–present

videos + essays

We're adding new content all the time!

Timbuktu
Timbuktu

Timbuktu was an intellectual and spiritual capital and a center for the propagation of Islam throughout Africa in the 15th and 16th centuries

Tomb of Askia
Tomb of Askia

This tomb bears testimony to the power and riches of the empire that flourished in the 15th and 16th centuries through its control of the trans-Saharan trade, notably in salt and gold

Saving Timbuktu’s manuscripts
Saving Timbuktu’s manuscripts

A heroic effort to save and preserve Mali's long manuscript tradition.

Lost History: the terracotta sculpture of Djenne Djenno
Lost History: the terracotta sculpture of Djenne Djenno

Are these little-understood figures representations of diseased people, or an attempt to ward off illness?

Seydou Keïta, <em>Untitled</em> (Seated Woman with Chevron Print Dress)
Seydou Keïta, Untitled (Seated Woman with Chevron Print Dress)

Studio photography produced mementos for the growing middle class: Keïta’s Bamako studio was abuzz with clients.

Kòmò Helmet Mask (Kòmòkunw) (Bamana peoples)
Kòmò Helmet Mask (Kòmòkunw) (Bamana peoples)

Intended to intimidate, this headdress was used by a member of the powerful Kumo society of blacksmiths.

Male and Female Antelope Headdresses (Ci wara) (Bamana peoples)
Male and Female Antelope Headdresses (Ci wara) (Bamana peoples)

These headdresses celebrate the divine Ci Wara, half man and half antelope, who introduced humans to agriculture.

Mask (Kanaga) (Dogon peoples)
Mask (Kanaga) (Dogon peoples)

Kanaga masks were traditionally worn during the dama, a six-day long funerary ritual for Dogon men.

Seated Figure (Djenné peoples)
Seated Figure (Djenné peoples)

This hunched figure is a large part of the material record of an egalitarian society that disappeared around 1400.

Dogon Couple (Dogon peoples)
Dogon Couple (Dogon peoples)

Is this a couple, or could this pair relate to a story from Dogon cosmology?

Mother and Child & Seated Male with Lance (Bamana peoples)
Mother and Child & Seated Male with Lance (Bamana peoples)

Each of these works embodies complementary Bamana ideals of physical beauty and moral character

Ritual Container (Dogon peoples)
Ritual Container (Dogon peoples)

This type of vessel has been interpreted by art historians as a representation of the mythic ark central to Dogon accounts of genesis.

Selected Contributors