Senufo Figurine

IHK 0917-2

Senufo (or Tussian) Figurine Ornament, Ivory Coast or Burkina Faso

This ‘Three-person’ divine pendent is a lost wax brass figurine from Ivory Coast or Burkina Faso.  These types of pendants were usually worn on the chest using a leather band or on the hip.

Diviners in Senufo communities act as intermediaries between humans and potentially hostile nature spirits. The women’s Sandogo association trains many of the diviners in northern Ivory Coast, but other resourceful men and women also learn how to divine. Clients seek consultations with divination experts when illness or disaster strikes, before pursuing a new project, or to prevent future calamities. Successful diviners depend on close interaction with nature spirits, or ndebele. They rely on artists to create works that will appeal to the ndebele (nyambele) spirits and induce them to relay messages between spirit and human realms.

Early in their careers, diviners acquire inexpensive works, such as figurines made of copper alloy. Once they establish their practices and develop a broad clientele, they invest in more costly wood sculpture. Diviners who are able to commission more expensive works usually retain the less refined ones as well.

Condition: This is in all ways a perfect cast counterpart from Senufo (or Tussian). No nicks or defects in the casting.

Dimensions: H: 6,5 cm, W: 5,7 cm, D: 0,6 cm – weight 60 gram

Age: 19th to mid- 20th century

Provenance: The CO Hultén Collection, Sweden. Acquired in the 1950s

Bochet, Gilbert. “The Poro of the Senufo.” In Art of Côte d’Ivoire from the collections of the Barbier-Mueller Museum, edited by Jean-Paul Barbier. Vol. 1., Musée Barbier-Mueller, Geneva, 1993.
LaGamma, Alisa. Art and Oracle: African Art and Rituals of Divination. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000.
Peek, Philip M. “Couples of Doubles? Representations of Twins in the Arts of Africa.” In African Arts vol. 41, no. 1, 2008, pp. 14-23 (see especially pp. 19-20).

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