DescriptionSENUFO, Ivory Coast, Mali, Burkina Faso
Senufo people are primarily farmers in dry savannah country. They are politically decentralized: each village is self-governing. They are matrilineal, reckoning descent in the mother's lineage, which gives women more power in village governance.
The present large standing drum is probably from the Ivory Coast, where the men's society is called "Poro." Pre-pubescent girls can participate in some "Poro" rites, as can women past the age of childbearing. Women also have a divination society, "Sandogo," which deals with villager's sicknesses and troubles. "Poro" and "Sandogo" together provide most of the political structure in villages, and they participate in ceremonies connected with traditional religion, which focuses on respected ancestors and nature spirits, some of which are represented as animals that also have roles to play in creation myths.
Large standing drums, "Pinge," like the present example, are carved from one piece of wood. The drum head is made of animal hide attached to pegs that can be tightened or loosened to produce proper tone. Drums are played to summon spirits to ceremonies; they are played at initiations, funerals and agricultural ceremonies, usually by "Poro" society men. In the past, they were played to call "Poro" men to war.
Many standing drums rest on four integrally-carved short legs representing the stools used by elders. A few drums are supported by caryatids sitting on stools. These female figures illustrate the way drums are carried by young girls when they are used. The present drum is supported on an integrally-carved quadruped, probably a horse, which is a prestige symbol and whose four legs also remind viewers of the elder's stool.
Relief-carved images of birds, crocodiles, tortoises and snakes are animals that figure in Senufo creation myths or divination procedures; in general, they comment on the role of knowledge and power in the world, while the human figures seem to stress cooperation for success.
The Robert V. Berg Collection
Height: 37 ¼ inches
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