Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Oracle Figure (Kafigeledjo)

19th–mid-20th century
Côte d'Ivoire, northern Côte d'Ivoire
Senufo peoples
Wood, iron, bone, porcupine quills, feathers, commercially woven fiber, organic material
H. 32 7/16 x W. 13 x D. 4 1/2 in. (82.5 x 33 x 11.4 cm)
Credit Line:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Raymond Wielgus, 1964
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 350
A hybrid creation that lies outside the realm of anything recognizable in nature, this oracle figure deliberately provokes anxiety through its shrouded anonymity and the sense of suffocation and entrapment it suggests. These works and the ritual practice in which they are used are both known as kafigeledjo ("he who speaks the truth").
The figures give visual representation to invisible bush spirits and function as divination devices. Kafigeledjo divination is used to uncover misdeeds, false testimony, and culpability. Although such works have the potential to affect all members of a Senufo community, access to this oracle is restricted to the most enlightened senior male and, occasionally, female members, who keep it shrouded in secrecy.
Raymond and Laura Wielgus, Chicago, until 1964; Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1964–78

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Art of Oceania, Africa, and the Americas from the Museum of Primitive Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1969, 282.

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