Splendid Kpélié Mask, Sénoufo population, Ivory Coast 1950


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Kpélié Mask, wood covered with copper, cowry shells Dimensions 36.5 x 14.5 cm / 14.17 x 5.51 inches The populations speaking the Sénoufo language are spread across a vast territory ranging from southern Mali, southern Burkina Faso to northern Ivory Coast. Today, there are around thirty different subgroups. The Sénoufo people possess a rich religious structure rich in symbols and rites linked to an initiatory organization based on male age classes, known as "poro". Indeed, men's lives are punctuated by stages, including an initiation to transition from boyhood to manhood. The initiatory society "Lô" is the most important and handles the initiation of young boys. Young boys learn about their role, genealogy, religion, social issues, and a special language. Initiations take place in areas far from the village, in secret, in sacred groves. This initiation is very lengthy and can last for three phases of seven years in some cases. Objects are crafted by professional sculptors capable of controlling the spiritual force contained within the materials. At the end of these initiation stages, the initiate becomes one of the knowledgeable men, one of the wise. The Kpélié mask holds a specific place; it is used during the initiatory ceremonies of the Lô society, during funerals, and during harvest ceremonies. Sénoufo masks have various names including kpélié, kodelié, or kulié. "Kulié" is a term that may derive from "ku" meaning death and "ié" meaning face, which could indicate that the mask is associated with an ancestor. Indeed, ancestor worship is significant for these populations. Sénoufo masks exhibit characteristic forms that allow for their identification. The face is oval, the nose long, with a small mouth that in some regions may show teeth, and a long, angular chin. Around the face, additional peripheral elements are added, including figurative frontal elements often associated with one of the five mythological animals, each ancestor of a clan. Our mask features two birds, which could represent the hornbill, the mythological bird associated with the notion of procreation and ancestor of the blacksmith clan. Thus, the presence of the bird would limit the use of the mask to this same clan. The birds are surrounded on both sides by ram horns, a characteristic of these masks, without a clear symbolic origin. On the cheeks, semi-ellipses or triangles are noticeable, and on the lower part, what appears to be legs. All masks exhibit a work of symmetry and balance of forms, highly symbolic. The precise interpretation of the use of these masks differs; Albert Maesen suggests that these masks are used during the first two phases of initiation, evoking fear. Bohumil Holas, on the other hand, finds a metaphysical explanation and presents a link with spirituality and meditation accessible only to higher initiates, suggesting that the mask then recalls the imperfection and precariousness of human condition. Some masks, like our, feature metal applied to wood in the form of strips fixed with round-headed nails. This specificity resembles objects found among the Bamana and Marka. The function of these metal masks remains unclear regarding their use in religious ceremonies.

Current list price: €1.400,00

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Place of origin:
Côte d'Ivoire
Folk Art
Dimensions (cm):
36.5H x 14.5W x 14.5D
Dimensions (inch):
14,37H x 5,71W x 5,71D
Creator / Artist:
Wood, Copper
Inventory ID:
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Payment note:
Visa & Mastercard accepted at the gallery
Shipping options:
International - YES
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