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Great Mask (Imina na)

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Dogon commemorative performances are supervised and enacted by initiates of a powerful ritual organization known as Awa. Members of the Awa society are both the creators and the dancers of a vast corpus of Dogon mask forms. The Great Mask, Imina na, is a unique sculptural work of singular importance that serves as the focal point of Awa private and public gatherings. Although a mask in name and form, the Great Mask, is rarely worn. Instead its very presence transforms its surroundings into a place of mystical exchanges distinctive both in terms of its scale and its function as a ritual altar, the Great Mask serves as a communal emblem of Dogon spiritual life. Every sixty years, Awa sponsors the carving of a new Great Mask as part of the preparations surrounding the Sigui celebration. These two events embrace ideas of renewal as well as the collective commemoration of an entire generation of elders. The Awa society uses natural shelters, such as caves at the outskirts of settlements, to store ritual objects, and it is there that a community preserves its Great Masks of the past and present.

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