Côte d'Ivoire; Senufo
H. 47 11/16 in. (121.2 cm), W. 18 in. (45.7 cm), D. 15 in. (38.1 cm)
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Gift of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1964 (1978.412.382)
The rarity of large-scale bird sculptures that were produced for Senufo poro associations by master artists suggests that by the twentieth century only a few associations in northern Côte d'Ivoire invested in the form. Some bird sculptures have hollow bases that permitted poro initiates to carry the heavy works on their heads during poro ceremonies. The form, identified generically by some Senufo speakers as a bird, or sejen, does not necessarily represent a specific type of bird. The large carved beak common on many sejen sculptures suggests a species of hornbill. However, Senufo speakers have also associated the sculptures with crows, eagles, vultures, or buzzards. Individuals sometimes refer to bird sculpture as kasinge, a reference to the first ancestor. The term links the form with either the mythological founder of humanity or the original architect of the sacred grove that houses the sculpture. When identified as a "mother of the poro child," the sculpture celebrates the authority and leadership of poro elders who are considered the metaphorical mothers of junior poro initiates. Such creations accordingly serve as a guardian of young poro initiates.