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Legends, Sorcerers, and Enchanted Lizards: Door Locks of the Bamana of Mali

Pascal James Imperato, with an foreword by Robert J. Koenig
Legends, Sorcerers, and Enchanted Lizards: Door Locks of the Bamana of Mali
ISBN: 9780841914148
2001/192 pages/LC: 2001024169
Distributed for Holmes & Meier Publishers
Includes photographs

"An outstanding contribution  to African and world art studies. Imperato guides us through the essential relationships between Bamana doorlocks and cultural myths, beliefs, and practices. He helps us appreciate the monumentality of even small-scale objects in the Bamana world."—Mary Jo Arnoldi, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution

"This beautifully illustrated book provides an in-depth look at the meaning, context, and artistry of Bamana door locks. Imperato demonstrates that these humble utilitarian objects embody a wealth of ideas that encapsulate Bamana philosophy, spirituality, and beliefs about social relationships. The book is an important addition to the library of anyone interested in African art and culture."—Kate Ezra, Coordinator of Art History, Columbia College, Chicago


The Bamana people are known for their rich artistic traditions, including the creation of masks, statues, door locks, headdresses, and ritual and utilitarian objects: Their door locks are among the most remarkable of all African art. Sculpted of wood in a rich variety of forms, they depict mythological and historical figures, social events, and representational figures—crocodiles, lizards, tortoises, owls, bats, butterflies, humans.

Known as konbarabara, these exquisite locks were once presented to young women at the time of their marriage and affixed to the doors of their new homes. The beauty of the carvings and the ingenuity of the locking systems present a fascinating study of this unusual art form.

This unique publication presents for the first time in the United States a comprehensive survey of Bamana lock forms: Fifty-three Bamana locks and four Bamana doors with locks are displayed along with ten Dogon and two Bwa locks (both ethnic groups live in Mali).


Pascal James Imperato is Dean and Distinguished Service Professor at the SUNY Downstate Medical Center School of Public Health. He is author of Dogon Cliff Dwellers: The Art of Mali's Mountain People, d Buffoons, Queens and Wooden Horsemen: The Dyo and Gouan Socities of the Bambara of Mali, and The Historical Dictionary of Mali.