Bird (Sejen), Wood, Senufo peoples

Bird (Sejen)

19th–mid-20th century
Côte d'Ivoire, northern Côte d'Ivoire
Senufo peoples
H. 47 11/16 x W. 18 x D. 15 in. (121.2 x 45.7 x 38.1 cm)
Credit Line:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Gift of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1964
Accession Number:
Not on view
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 associates 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.
[Charles Ratton, Paris, until 1960]; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, on loan to The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1960–1964; The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1964–1978

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, no. 285.