Entering Dogon Land (Mali)

Memories of a trip to Mali in April 2009

The night had been a cold one, the dewdrops on our tent made me think of all the plants that were gathering their nightly moisture fix to be able to get through the heat of the next day. The day had started early so we could climb one of the Bandiagara cliffs in Central Mali to visit a hidden Dogon tribe. We put on our hiking boots and started heading up the cliff. There was no real path to speak of and some parts were dangerously steep. Some Dogon women and children soon caught up with us carrying large buckets of water up from the well at the foot of the cliff, they were jumping bare footed from rock to rock without losing a drop of water.

Climbing up the cliff © Siel Wellens, 2009

© Siel Wellens, 2009

View from halfway up the cliff © Siel Wellens, 2009

After a half hour of climbing we entered a maze of buildings that fitted perfectly in the stone cliff walls. Some were stacked against the wall like apartments, leaving us to wonder how a person could ever reach these buildings without being a professional rock climber.

© Siel Wellens, 2009

© Siel Wellens, 2009

© Siel Wellens, 2009

Granary © Siel Wellens, 2009

A Dogon tribe will allow you to visit their village after you offer Kola nuts to the village elders. The elders can be found sitting in a so-called ‘toguna’ which is a small open building with a low roof. Since no man can stand up straight in the toguna, aggression is discouraged when discussions get heated.

Dogon elders in the toguna © Siel Wellens, 2009.


© Siel Wellens, 2009.

Most of the Dogon still hold on to the traditional religion:

Sacrified Rooster © Siel Wellens, 2009


Circumcision Cave in Songo © Siel Wellens, 2009



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