Cliff of Bandiagara (Land of the Dogons)

Cliff of Bandiagara (Land of the Dogons)

The Bandiagara site is an outstanding landscape of cliffs and sandy plateaux with some beautiful architecture (houses, granaries, altars, sanctuaries and Togu Na, or communal meeting-places). Several age-old social traditions live on in the region (masks, feasts, rituals, and ceremonies involving ancestor worship). The geological, archaeological and ethnological interest, together with the landscape, make the Bandiagara plateau one of West Africa's most impressive sites.

Falaises de Bandiagara (pays dogon)

En plus de ses paysages exceptionnels de falaises et de plateau gréseux intégrant de très belles architectures (habitations, greniers, autels, sanctuaires et toguna – abris des hommes), le site de la région de Bandiagara possède des traditions sociales prestigieuses encore vivantes (masques, fêtes rituelles et populaires, cultes périodiquement rendus aux ancêtres à travers plusieurs cérémonies). Par ses caractéristiques géologiques, archéologiques et ethnologiques et ses paysages, le plateau de Bandiagara est l'un des sites les plus imposants d'Afrique de l'Ouest.

صخور باندياغارا (بلاد الدوغون)

 يملك موقع باندياغارا، بالإضافة إلى مناظره الطبيعية الخلابة المؤلّفة من الصخور والهضبات الرمليّة التي تتميّز بالهندسات الجميلة (كالبيوت ومخازن الغلال والمعابد والملاجئ)، تقاليدَ اجتماعيّةً مدهشةً لا تزال تُمارَس حتى اليوم (كالأقنعة والاحتفالات الدينيّة والشعبيّة والشعائر الدينيّة التي تُقام بصورةٍ دوريّةٍ للأجداد في مناسباتٍ عديدة). وتُعتبر هضبة باندياغارا أحد أهم المواقع في غرب أفريقيا ويعود ذلك إلى صفاتها الجيولوجيّة والأثريّة وتنوّع الشعوب التي سكنتها ومناظرها الطبيعيّة.

source: UNESCO/ERI



source: UNESCO/ERI

Нагорье Бандиагара (земля догонов)

Бандиагара – это своеобразный ландшафт обрывистого песчаникового плато с уникальной скальной архитектурой (жилища, зернохранилища, алтари, святилища и места для общественных собраний). В этой местности еще сохраняются старинные народные традиции догонов (маскарады, празднества, различные ритуалы, в т.ч. связанные с культом предков). Археологическая и этнографическая ценность, наряду с уникальным ландшафтом, делает нагорье Бандиагара одним из наиболее экзотичных мест во всей Западной Африке.

source: UNESCO/ERI

Farallones de Bandiagara (País de los dogones)

Además de sus excepcionales paisajes de farallones y mesetas de arenisca con hermosas realizaciones arquitectónicas –viviendas, graneros, altares, santuarios y lugares de reunión o “togunas”–, la meseta de Bandiagara conserva toda una serie de tradiciones sociales ancestrales como la confección de máscaras y la celebración de fiestas populares y rituales, o ceremonias de culto a los antepasados. El paisaje y las características geológicas, arqueológicas y etnológicas de esta meseta hacen de ella uno los sitios más impresionantes del África Occidental.

source: UNESCO/ERI


source: NFUAJ

Klif van Bandiagara (land van de Dogon)

De Bandiagara is een bijzonder landschap van kliffen en zandplateaus. Er is prachtige architectuur te vinden: huizen, graanschuren, altaren, heiligdommen en Togu Na – gemeenschappelijke ontmoetingsplaatsen. In de regio leven eeuwenoude sociale tradities voort die tot uiting komen in de vorm van maskers, feesten, rituelen en voorouder-vererende ceremonies. Het geologische, archeologische en etnologische belang van dit gebied – samen met het landschap – maken het Bandiagara plateau tot een van de meest indrukwekkende bezienswaardigheden van West-Afrika. De sociale en culturele tradities van de Dogon behoren tot de best bewaarde van het gebied van Afrika net onder de Sahara.


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Outstanding Universal Value
Brief synthesis

The Cliff of Bandiagara, Land of the Dogons, is a vast cultural landscape covering 400,000 ha and 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 communities at the site are essentially the Dogon, and have a very close relationship with their environment expressed in their sacred rituals and traditions.

The site of the Land of the Dogons is an impressive region of exceptional geological and environmental features. 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 corresponded to the need for defence of the Dogons in the face of formidable invaders. Entrenched on the plateau and hanging to cliff faces, the Dogon were able to conserve their centuries-old culture and traditions, thanks to this defensive shelter. The architecture of the Dogon land has been adapted to benefit from the physical constraints of the place. Whether on the high plateau, the cliff-faces, or on the plain, the Dogon 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.

One of the most characteristic forms of the Land of the Dogon is that of the togu-na, the large shelter, a long construction that provides shelter under a roof of branches supported by roughly-shaped wooden poles, for a platform with benches for the men.

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. 

Criterion (v): The Land of the Dogon is the outstanding manifestation of a system of thinking linked to traditional religion that has integrated harmoniously with architectural heritage, very remarkably in a natural landscape of rocky scree and impressive geological features. The intrusion of new written religions (Islam and Christianity) since at least the 18th century has contributed towards the vulnerability of the heritage that today suffers from adverse effects of globalization.

Criterion (vii): The cliff and its rocky scree constitute a natural area of unique and exceptional beauty in West Africa. The diversity of geomorphological features (plateau, cliffs and plains) of the site are characterized by the presence of natural monuments (caves, secondary dunes and rock shelters) that bear witness to the continued influence of the different erosion phenomena. It is also in the natural environment that the endemic plant Acridocarpus monodii is found, its growth area being limited to the cliffs, and specific medicinal plants used by the Dogon therapists and healers. These plants suffer from gradual decline due to climate change (drought and desertification) and logging. The relationship of the Dogon people with their environment is also expressed in the sacred rituals associating spiritually the pale fox, the jackal and the crocodile. 


Due to the socio-economic phenomena (exodus, scholarization, infrastructure development), human activities and the degradation of the environment (climate change causing droughts, desertification or also torrential rains; demographic pressure), the populations are leaving the villages located on the steep escarpments for the plain. Some intangible cultural practices undergo mutation linked to contact with other imported value systems (religions, cultural tourism...). The integrity of this very extensive property is, consequently, threatened as several sectors no longer contain all the attributes of the Outstanding Universal Value. 


The social and cultural traditions of the Dogon are among the best preserved of sub-saharan Africa, despite certain important irreversible socio-economic mutations. The villages and their inhabitants are faithful to the ancestral values linked to an original life style. The harmonious integration of cultural elements (architecture) in the natural landscape remains authentic, outstanding and unique. Nevertheless, the traditional practices associated to the living quarters and the building constructions have become vulnerable, and in places the relationship between the material attributes and the Outstanding Universal Value are fragile.

Protection and management requirements

The property is listed in national heritage by Decree No 89 – 428 P-RM of 28 December 1989 as a natural and cultural sanctuary. The Law regulating forestry exploitation (No.68-8/AN-RN of February 1968) as well as the Ordinance No. 60/CMLN of 11 November 1969 concerning hunting are also applicable. The Ministry of Culture of Mali, the overall body responsible for the protection of the property, has delegated the management to the Cultural Mission of Bandiagara. The Cultural Mission of Bandiagara has prepared a management and conservation plan for the site (2006-2010). This plan requires the implementation of activities relating to integrated conservation programmes. It highlights the improvement of living conditions of the communities, bearers of the heritage values of the site.

For a sustainable and effective management of the site, priority is given to the implementation of programmes inscribed in the management and conservation plan of the site. This plan calls for the correlation of the management of heritage and development of the local economy. The Land of the Dogon is a living site, but fragile, and certain important values can only be preserved by taking into consideration the well-being of the local communities,  translated by the implementation of targeted development and infrastructural projects (for example, the provision of water to high-perched sites and the economic enhancement of heritage resources).

It is essential to assess the implementation of the management plan to better pinpoint the concerns of the populations and those responsible bodies of the decentralized territorial communities.

Another concern is the need to revise the listing of the site. Any revision of the boundaries should reflect the vulnerabilities of certain parts of the property in terms of authenticity and integrity.