March 26, 2015

1497 MALI (Mopti) - Cliff of Bandiagara, Land of the Dogons (UNESCO WHS)

The Cliff of Bandiagara is a vast cultural landscape, which includes 289 villages scattered between the three natural regions: sandstone plateau, escarpment, plains (more than two-thirds of the listed perimeter are covered by plateau and cliffs). The sandstone cliff rises about 500m above the lower sandy flats to the south, and has a length of approximately 150km. The geological, archaeological and ethnological interest, together with the landscape, make the Bandiagara plateau one of West Africa's most impressive sites. Human settlements in the region, since Palaeolithic times, have enabled the development and harmonious integration into the landscape of rich and dense tangible and intangible cultures, the best known of which are those of the Tellem, that are thought to live in the caves, and the Dogon.

This hostile milieu and difficult access has been, since the 15th century, a natural refuge that defended the Dogons in the face of invaders. Entrenched on the plateau and hanging to cliff faces, they were able to conserve their centuries-old culture and traditions. The architecture has been adapted to benefit from the physical constraints of the place. Whether on the high plateau, the cliff-faces, or on the plain, they have exploited all the elements available to build their villages that reflect their ingenuity and their philosophy of life and death. In certain cultural areas, the Dogon villages comprise numerous granaries, for the most part square with a thatched tapering roof. The gin’na, or large family house, is generally built on two levels. Its facade built from banco, is windowless but has a series of niches and doors, often decorated with sculptured motifs: rows of male and female characters which symbolize the couple’s successive generations.

The totemic sanctuaries (binu), privileged places, are of a great variety: some, in caves, keep alive the cult places of the Tellem; others, built of banco, resemble houses. The most venerated are the responsibility of the Hogon, the priest of one or several villages living alone, his source of inspiration being the snake, Lèbe, whose totem is often sculpted near the door of his dwelling. The irruption of new «written religions» (Islam and Christianity) since at least the 18th century has contributed to the vulnerability of the heritage that today has suffered from the negative effects of globalization linked to the increasing development of cultural tourism and the phenomena of rural exodus, consequence of the drought of the last decades.

About the stamp
The stamp is part of the series Serval - Le monde au secours du Mali, issued on January 11, 2014, and comprising 5 stamps.

Cliff of Bandiagara (Land of the Dogons) - UNESCO official website
Bandiagara Escarpment - Wikipedia

Sender: Basserou Doumbo
Sent from Sangha (Mopti / Mali), on 26.02.2015
Photo: Diango Cisse

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