Côte d'Ivoire or Burkina Faso, northern Côte d'Ivoire-southwestern Burkina Faso
Senufo or Tussian peoples
H. 2 x W. 1 7/8 x D. 1/4 in. (5.1 x 4.7 x 0.6 cm)
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John J. Klejman, 1964
Not on view
Diviners in Senufo communities act as intermediaries between humans and potentially hostile nature spirits. The women's sandogo association trains many of the diviners in northern Côte d'Ivoire, but other resourceful men and women also learn how to divine. Clients seek consultations with divination experts when illness or disaster strikes, before pursuing a new project, or to prevent future calamities. Successful diviners depend on close interaction with nature spirits, or ndebele. They rely on artists to create works that will appeal to the ndebele spirits and induce them to relay messages between spirit and human realms.
Early in their careers, diviners acquire inexpensive works, such as figurines made of copper alloy. Once they establish their practices and develop a broad clientele, they invest in more costly wood sculpture. Diviners who are able to commission more expensive works usually retain the less refined ones as well.
Mr. and Mrs. John J. Klejman, New York, until 1964; The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1964–1978
LaGamma, Alisa. Art and Oracle: African Art and Rituals of Divination. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000, pp. 24-25.