Twin Figurine, Brass, Senufo or Tussian peoples

Twin Figurine

19th–mid-20th century
Côte d'Ivoire or Burkina Faso, northern Côte d'Ivoire-southwestern Burkina Faso
Senufo or Tussian peoples
H. 3 x W. 1 7/8 x D. 1/2 in. (7.6 x 4.7 x 1.3 cm)
Credit Line:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John J. Klejman, 1964
Accession Number:
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 relatively inexpensive arts, including figurines made of copper alloy. Doubled or twin imagery often refers to the bush spirits, water spirits, biological twins, and otherworld partners that assist diviners in their work. 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

Bochet, Gilbert. "The Poro of the Senufo." In Art of Côte d'Ivoire from the collections of the Barbier-Mueller Museum, edited by Jean-Paul Barbier. Vol. vol. 1. Geneva: Musée Barbier-Mueller, 1993.

LaGamma, Alisa. Art and Oracle: African Art and Rituals of Divination. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000, pp. 24–25.

Peek, Philip M. "Couples of Doubles? Representations of Twins in the Arts of Africa." African Arts vol. 41, no. 1 (Spring 2008), pp. 14-23 (see especially pp. 19-20).