Djenne Selections

Click Selection for Details


Djenne Information

Location: On the Niger River in central
Neighboring Peoples: n/a
Types of Art: n/a
Religion: Oral histories have been examined, including the story of Wagadu Bida, the founder of the Wagadu, or Ghana Empire. The myth tells of the birth of a serpent from the first marriage of Dinga, the leader of the Soninké clan. The serpent, named Wagadu Bida, was the source of fertility and well being. Each year a virgin had to be sacrificed to secure the blessings of the serpent. One year, a young Soninké man, distraught that the girl he loved was to be sacrificed, slaughtered the serpent. The devastating drought that followed resulted in the dispersal of the Soninké and the founding of the Djenné culture. It is possible that the images of figures covered with serpents that were created in great numbers by the artists of ancient Djenné illustrate this myth and a subsequent cult of serpents. The numerous figures that show evidence of disease may represent supplicants who prayed to the spirit embodied in the shrine for healing.
Credit: McIntyre, L. Lee and Christopher D. Roy. 'Art and Life in Africa Online.' 1998: The Art and Life in Africa Project,