Lot 101B: Senufo Painted Wood Female Divination Figure

Artemis Gallery

October 27, 2016
Louisville, CO, US

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Description: West Africa, Burkina Faso, Senufo, ca. early to mid 20th century CE. A wooden female divination figure from the Senufo peoples from Burkina Faso rather than the Ivory Coast. The piece is skillfully carved with characteristic features including a crescent-shaped coiffure, large coffee bean shaped eyes, long pointed nose, grand cup-shaped ears, stylized mitten-shaped hands and paddle-shaped feet, emphasis on her breasts, buttocks, and protruding perhaps pregnant belly. The surface also shows incised striations on her face and breasts to delineate scarification marks as well as detailing on the coiffure. Remains of red pigment also adorn the figure. This lovely female figure most likely belonged to a male-female pair symbolizing the primordial couple, and would have been kept with her other half in a shrine. The powerful primordial couple would have been taken out for funeral processions, to honor the deceased as they entered the spiritual realm.Custom metal square stand. Size: figure measures 3.25" W x 10.75" H (8.3 cm x 27.3 cm); 11" (27.9 cm) with stand.

In her discussion of the cultural context of Senufo statuary at the occasion of the exhibition Genesis: Ideas of Origin in African Sculpture at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, LaGamma (2002: 30 et seq.) explains: "According to the Senufo account of genesis, Kolotyolo, the creator, gave life to the first man and woman, who became the first human couple. The woman conceived and gave birth to twins, a girl and a boy. [...] The ideal of human male-female duality [...] also informs Senufo conceptions of the divine, especially the bipartite deity that is central to Senufo religious belief. Kolotyolo, the male aspect of divinity responsible for creation and 'bringing us forth,' is a benevolent but relatively remote presence who is balanced by a more accessible female dimension known as Katyeleeo, or Ancient Mother. She is a divine protectress responsive to the needs of the community. Within Senufo society, an optimal relationship with this divinity and the ancestors is assured through Poro, an initiation-based organization whose teachings also prepare members for responsible and enlightened leadership. Participation in Poro is universal among Senufo males, who safeguard their community's social and political welfare by making frequent sacrifices to the ancestors - conceived as past children of Ancient Mother - so that they may intercede on behalf of her current, living children.

Provenance: Ex Peter Arnovick Collection, Los Altos CA

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Condition Report: Intact with minor surface wear and pigment loss.
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