Traditional Bambara locks

Carved wooden piece in specific tree species that have a history, to be placed on wooden openings to secure access to premises (case or attic)


← back to informations
ML Mali
Web Unknown


About the project Edit

A lock is made up of two parts arranged in a cross with a vertical piece, a housing that is attached to the door with two pieces of iron and a horizontal piece, arm or bolt.

The bolt is deep so that the key can be inserted into the top part that touches the lock.

- small chambers with diameters from 6 to 8 mm into which iron spindles lock when closed.

- a metal plate that protects against rapid wear linked to the lock’s functioning. However, the plate is not systematic especially in certain locks that are made with very hard wood that does not have it.

The arm slips into the chamber made in the thickness of the lock. To close the door, the arm is pushed by hand and the lock’s spindles fall into the arm’s chambers that is blocked. At the same time, the far left of the bolt locks in the hole in the door frame that is then closed.

The number of spindles per lock ranges from one to four. In general, there are two on the old locks where as the newer ones often have only one.

The key, which is made entirely of metal in most cases or from wood with iron teeth, is locked at the bolt’s other far side. The key’s teeth which point up, push the spindles back by taking their place in the bolt chamber. To open, the bolt is pulled horizontally which then releases from the door’s frame.

The door generally opens towards the inside of the room. The lock is installed on the left side of the door (very rarely on the right).


In what ways is this project unique and creative? Edit

The project is unique because it comes from art that can be called primitive. This lock which was created by ethnic Bambara and Dogon blacksmiths dates before the colonial era. The creative aspect is in the notion of traditional and having a local system of locking, home safety (case) and food (attic).

What is the social value of this project? Edit

As well as for the home, traditional locks have a societal history linked to the change of status (of woman especially who give it sentimental value) or “religious” origins.

What is the potential of this project to expand and develop? Edit

Traditional locks are always used in rural areas inhabited by the Dogon and Bambara ethic peoples of Mali. They can be used as an original decorative piece, wanted especially in traditional habitats, tourist destinations or as a collector’s piece.

What was the triggering factor of this project? Edit

From ancient traditional art and social realities.

What is the business model of this project? Edit

Object of art made in a daily human environment (normally by blacksmiths), traditional locks must be easily accessed and, therefore, made available as soon as they are requested.


Project Community

2 fans and 0 members

Join the team

You find this project inspiring ?



This project has no known partners.