The Dogon Dama - Mask Dance

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An important Dogon tradition is the Dama or masked funeral dance. By masquerading behind masks, the dancers allow the souls of the deceased to escape to their final resting place and to join the ranks of their ancestors, thereby restoring order to the universe. Participation in the Dama is a great honor as it represents the final step in the passage from boyhood to manhood. Boys eagerly watch the infrequently performed Dama, in anticipation of the day in which they may also participate in the dance. The village Elders, who are too old to endure the physical exertion of the dance, stand on the sideline, play the music, explain the meaning of the various masks, and keep the pace of the ritual going. The Dama is usually performed every five years or so.

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