7 SENUFO FIGURE, CÔTE D’IVOIRE Wood oozing with black patina
Exhibition/Publication : - Ars Exotica, 7 septembre - 30 octobre 1950, Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Gand, 1950, published p. 18, number 69-70 - Die kunst der Senoufo, Staatliche Museen Preußischer Kulturbesitz Museum für Völkerkunde Berlin, nov. 1990 - Frans Olbrechts op zoek naar Kunst in Afrika, Etnografisch Museum, Anvers, 2001, cat. 124 - Les Maîtres de la sculpture de Côte d'Ivoire, travelling exhibition : 14 Feb. 2014-26 Jul. 2016 : Rietberg Museum, Zurich, Bundeskunsthalle, Bonn, Die Nieuwe Kerk, Amsterdam and Musée du Quai Branly, Paris. shoulders run into slim arms bent away from the body with hands on the hips. The heart-shaped face has coffee bean eyes, the slim mouth points towards the chin. A beautiful curve runs the length of the chin heightening the noble features. The headdress with a high ridge in a strip runs over the back into a braid on the nape. Body decorations are carved into the cheeks, shoulders and back. Old pendants probably hung from the pierced ears and posterior base of the headdress. The oil coating this beautiful statue is still oozing which only elevates its great presence. This type of piece was made to honour a champion farmer or sambali, celebrate a man’s bravery and primarily that of his entire community or katyolo. The recurring feminine theme celebrates both the fertility of the earth and individual. It encapsulates the promise that giving the cane entails: marrying one of the region’s most beautiful woman who’s not only seductive and proud as suggested by the statue’s features, but also a hard worker as shown by the vernacular name of the item, tefalipitya, “hoe-work-girl”. Generally speaking, trophy canes symbolise the personal effort required for a group to survive in a country with arid land. They were sometimes passed down through the generations and were left on the ground in front of the deceased’s hut in a gesture summoning honour and valour for the entire clan in life and death.
13 SOKOTO FIGURE, NIGERIA Terra-cotta in ochre engobe red
The female statue has been beautifully sculpted and is a fine example of Senufo art. The feet form a single block with the base under bent legs and the effigy thrusts its small chest forwards. The hands are two abstract oblique features framing and highlighting the naval, a symbol of lineage and fertility. The round buttocks give the back a deep curve and the long furrow along it is decorated with notches. The breasts beneath strong shoulders are perpendicular to the face: hooded eyes be neath arched eyelids, a delicate nose with a thin bone, an open mouth in the shape of a heart. The strong curve of the crested headdress on top of the high forehead echoes the fantastic profile along the chin. A network of parallel scarifications adorns the body and face, bracelets appear on the arched wrists and arms of this feminine depiction. The extremely refined features reflect a beauty ideal and the oil still oozing from the piece give it real dignity. The piece probably belonged to a prophetess or sandobele who kept domestic spirits in the long or short-term, fuelled and celebrated through her. A sizeable and striking piece, this Sokoto work represents a barebreasted woman. The arms frame the body, with the hands placed on the abdomen on either side of the finely scarified navel. The furrowed brow and drooping eyelids of the face, a major characteristic of Sokoto style, mark the sculpture with great solemnity. Sokoto art belongs to Nok art and is seen by people such as Frank Willett as a variation from the first millennium. It comes from the Karauchi burial ground over 400km north of the Nok site and has many official variations. Bernard de Grunne mentions the unique nature of the art form with its relatively severe features and simple headdress as opposed to Nok pieces. In his book African Art – the Nok of Nigeria, he says: “The Sokoto style, with its helmetshape headdresses and thick eyebrows, is reminiscent of the Nigerian tribal style of royal