Côte d'Ivoire or Burkina Faso, northern Côte d'Ivoire or SW Burkina Faso
Senufo or Tussian peoples
H. 1 5/8 x W. 7/8 x D. 1/4 in. (4.1 x 2.2 x 0.6 cm)
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979
Not on view
Throughout the twentieth century, sandogo associations in northern Côte d'Ivoire promoted the integrity of each matrilineage and trained some of its members in divination to encourage communication between humans and the spirit world. Diviners in the region continue to display wooden and brass figures during their consultations with men and women. They also wear cast brass ornaments and prescribe them for their clients to encourage spiritual protection and healing.
Women (and rarely men) gained access to sandogo through their mother's families, the lineages the institution protects. The arts and practices of women's sandogo and its counterpart, the men's poro initiation association, underscore the importance of gender complementarity. The figurine shown here may have constituted one figure in a gendered pair used during divination consultations, or a diviner or client may have acquired it from an artist to wear singly on the body.
[John J. Klejman, New York, until 1955]; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, 1955, on loan to The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1956–1978
Glaze, Anita J. "17. Senufo, Poro society female figure and 18. Senufo, Poro society professional figure." In Art of Côte d'Ivoire from the collections of the Barbier-Mueller Museum, edited by Jean-Paul Barbier. Vol. vol. 2. 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.