Dogon, Mali. Mid 19th century. Toro (ficus family) wood. 24"H X 9" W 4" D
The Dogon tribe operates with a highly sophisticated and disciplined system of tiered leadership. Once a year the "thief society" among the Dogon. Once a year, they are allowed to run rampant through their village and steal anything they can get their hands on. The meaning of the ritual is to highlight the chaos that exists when there is not order and respect for social unity, hence reinforcing the values of law and civil behavior.
The thieves staff is the symbol of this society, and they descend from one generation to the next (going to a nephew of the bearer whose mother was the bearer's sister). This is how it develops its blackened patina.