This remarkable figure of a standing human has been attributed to the Senufo of the Ivory Coast area. The general proportions are elongated and expressionist, with short legs, slender arms and all sections decorated with doughnut-like eminences indicative of jewellery and other adornments. The neck is very long with necklaces (?) doubling its girth. The head is small and well constructed, with protuberant eyes, a ridged nose and semicircular ears. The face is turned slightly to the figure’s left.
Pieces such as this are not as well known as the standard Senufo icon – pombilele, or rhythm pounders – although in representing half of an ancestor couple the intellectual intention is much alike. At the heart of Senufo society is a patriarchal group of elders known as the Poro, which is responsible for many religious and secular functions to do with the running of the tribal group. Smaller-scale magical issues, however, are usually dealt with by diviners or soothsayers (sandoo). Figures representing ancestors and spirits are used both centrally and in individual homes.
The Senufo group, based in the Ivory Coast and Mali area, migrated to their current location from the north during the 15th and 16th centuries AD. Their economy is primarily agricultural and settled. As a result specialist trades have become established, primary among which is the expert carver. These are typically important people, as the Senufo have a long history of using highly decorated ritual and secular objects in many aspects of everyday life.
This would have belonged to a sandoo (soothsayer) or an elite member of Senufo society; metal was extremely expensive. It is a remarkable piece of African art.