Dogon architecture : the Ginna
The social structure of Dogon villages is based on descent groups. Patrilineal families are each headed by a patriarch whose authority extends over all family members. They live in compounds neighbouring the Ginna, the residence of the patriarch (Ginna Banga). It is the village founder’s house and the most senior member among his successors lives there. Large villages are divided into districts and each has its own Ginna, a two storied building with a façade showing rows of superimposed niches. The ancestor altar (Wagem) is located in a covered structure that gives onto the roof terrace: a set of bowls that serve as receptacles for the dead who come and drink there. It is a place where Ginna members commemorate the recently dead and distant ancestors who are long forgotten.

La structure sociale des villages dogon est patrilinéaire. Elle s’articule autour de la grande famille dans laquelle l’autorité du patriarche s’exerce sur l’ensemble de ses membres. Tous vivent dans des concessions qui s’ordonnent autour de la Ginna, la demeure du patriarche (Ginna Banga). C’est la maison du fondateur du village; le doyen parmi ses successeurs y habite. Un grand village se compose de plusieurs quartiers, dont chacun est doté d’une Ginna, construction à étages dont la façade est ornée de rangées de niches superposées. Dans un grenier s’ouvrant sur le toit en terrasse se trouve l’autel des ancêtres (Wagem): un ensemble de poteries, dont chacune correspond à l’âme d’un ancêtre qui vient s’y abreuver. On y commémore des morts récents et des ancêtres d’un lointain passé dont personne ne se souvient.
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