The Senufo (the francophone spelling Senoufo is commonly used) are an ethnolinguistic group composed of diverse subgroups of Gur-speaking people living in an area spanning from southern Mali and the extreme western corner of Burkina Faso to Katiola in Côte d’Ivoire. In Bambara, an African language, the word Senufo means "Dialect of the farmers; "and refers to an agricultural and pacifist people.
Indeed, the Senufo is deemed to be rude when involved in his work and proud of his profession. The proverb that characterizes the Senufo is “I do quarrel with anyone, it is the land that I fight.” One group, the Nafana, is found in north-western Ghana.
Nafana (Senofu) woman and her baby
In green, the Senufo area
The Senufo number somewhere between 1.5 and 2.7 million and speak the various Senufo languages. Korhogo, an ancient town in northern Côte d’Ivoire dating from the 13th century, is the capital of the Senufo people.
Senufo are rectangular houses in Ivory Coast. These houses are made with brick walls and straw roofs.
They speak at least four distinct languages (Palaka, Dyimini, and Senari in Côte d’Ivoire and Suppire in Mali), which belong to the Gur branch of the Niger-Congo language family. Within each group, numerous subdivisions use their own names for the people and language; the name Senufo is of external origin.
Palaka separated from the main Senufo stock well before the 14th-century ad; at about that time, with the founding of the town of Kong as a Bambara trade-route station, the rest of the population began migrations to the south, west, and north, resulting in the present divisions.
They left the internal delta of Niger —around the town of Mopti (Mali)— in the search of good grounds, the Senufos arrived thousand years ago in the area where they currently reside.
Korhogo, became the capital and the seat of the most important senufo chiefdom and they were protected from the warlike incursions by the White Bandama . At the end of last century when the famous mandinka conqueror Samory threatened the country, Senufo, the chief of Korhogo declared: “We are not warriors, but farmers”
The Senufo are predominantly an agricultural people cultivating millet, sorghum, maize, yams, peanut, and rice. They also grow bananas, manioc, and a host of other crops that have been borrowed from cultures throughout the world.
Rice field in the Senufo territory
Small farm animals such as sheep, goats, chickens, guinea fowl, and dogs are raised. Minimal amounts of hunting and fishing also contribute to the local economy. Labor is divided between farmers and skilled artisans, and while it was once thought that these segments of society did not intermarry,
The all Senufo are note farmers. Others are also hunters « Dozo ».
Dozo are well known hunters of West Africa, specially because they are following a strict code based on honor.
Senufo Dozo from Burkina faso with a flyswatter made with an animal tail
To become Dozo, the young apprentice have to get a long learning period with a Grand Master. Irreproachable moral conduct is required. The code Dozo is based on respect for ancestors, honor and obedience to the master.
Besides learning hunting, the Dozo apprentice is initiated to the religious rituals.
Dozo hunters makes regular offerings to the spirits and fetishes of the bush. They spend considerable time to the preparation of amulets. A hunter Dozo never go hunting without reciting some secret incantations.
Dozo is wearing a tunic covered by amulets
A hunter Dozo is distinguished by the shirt and pants he wears. Both are made of cotton and dyed with natural colors like brown.
The Dozo adorns her blouse by various amulets, but also whistles, mirrors, horns of deer and some knives. In addition to its spiritual armor, a hunter Dozo is equipped with a rifle, a small ax, and a slaughtered animal tail transformed into flyswatter.
They live in villages that are governed by a council of elders, who in turn are led by a chief that was elected from them. The tribal structure if controlled through the rituals of the Poro society who initiate and control the men from as young a seven yours of age and on.
The Senefou follow a strict caste-like system, in which the farmer is at the top and the musicians are on the bottom rung of the society.
Among the rural Senufo-Tagba, all the girls of a particular age set become brides at the same time. This transition from youth to womanhood takes place in a week-long ceremony of ritual and celebration that is carried out once a year among the women of the village.
Covered Senufo bride returning home
On the first day of the wedding ceremony the married women of the village take all the brides to a sacred grove of trees located only a short distance from the village. There the women teach the young brides how to be good wives and instruct them in the rituals that are necessary for a happy and prosperous married life.
After time in the sacred grove, the brides are carried by their female relatives across a river on their way back to the village. The voices of the female chorus rise and fall while the sounds of the sichaala (gourd rattle) and tchere (calabash)“water drum” are heard. As they are carried across the river, the brides face the sky. This part of their journey symbolizes their transformation from girls to women and their reintegration into society.
Once on the other side of the river, the older women dress the brides in beautiful clothes and cover their heads with cloth. As they walk along in the procession they often are shaded by colorful umbrellas.
Back in the village, the women take the brides from compound to compound where members of the group sing, play their instruments, and dance. Here famous female singers perform to celebrate the transformation the girls have made and the pride Senufo women have in married life.
As the women sing, they and other female performers provide music with sichaala and the larger sichaa-gun-go rattles. Often they are accompanied by men playing punge drums, and occasionally by male djegele players who add to the music.
The brides prepare to return to the village.
For this part of the celebration, one bride’s female relatives have all worn dresses of the same cloth and pattern. As the women sing and dance they are accompanied by two gbogo drummers. All other men are a part of the audience.
While all musical instruments may be played by men, the sichaala and sichaa-gun-go rattles and the tchere “water drum” are considered women’s instruments and are played most prominently at weddings. It is primarily at these important celebrations that Senufo women are the featured performers.
In the evenings, as part of the wedding celebration, all members of the village gather to sing and dance. Djegele players are the central performers, joined by men playing gbogo drums and sometimes other instruments, like the karga, a metal scraper. While the musicians play and sing, a female chorus is often heard as the women spontaneously join in the music.
As the djegele band plays, men and women dance, moving in an informal circle. Often, as a young man performs a fancy dance in front of the djegele, he is rewarded by a young woman in the group who drapes a cloth around his neck as a sign of her admiration for his dancing skill.
Daily life for the Senufo people revolves around the religious rituals that enable them to placate the deities they respect and fear through means of divination practices and the wearing of specially crafted brass jewelry.
The Senufo employ the Fo bracelet, which contains one of the culture’s most prominent designs, a python, in a variety of purposes to suit the spiritual and aesthetic needs of the society. The Sandogo is an authoritative women’s social order responsible for sustaining positive relationships with the spiritual world through divination and for protecting the purity of each kinship group. The Sandobele are diviners within the Sandogo society who diagnose and resolve issues within the community.
There are a number of revered ancestor and bush spirits among the Senufo. Maleeo and Kolotyolo (“Ancient Mother” and “Creator God”) represent a dualistic deity. Kolotyolo is not approachable and can only be reached through Yiriigifolo or Nyehene. In the region of Kufulo, Maleeo is represented by the sacred drums before whom all thieves and murderers are brought for trial.
Poro secret society
The Poro society organization is a universal age-grade initiation association ; they exert social and political control, convey traditional knowledge, and fulfill religious functions, especially during elaborate funeral ceremonies.
Poro initiated girls
The Poro society is reserved primarily for men, although young girls and postmenopausal women are permitted to join. The main function of Poro is to guarantee a good relationship between the living world and the ancestors. Nerejao is an ancestress who is recognized as the true head of the Poro society.
Accordingly, young initiates spent weeks and even months together in secluded sacred groves where they developed the survival skills and intellectual foundation to prepare them for adulthood. Senior poro members instructed initiates in the work of poro, also referred to as work for “Old Mother,” the female aspect of the supreme deity and protector of poro initiates. As a result of locally sponsored initiations, poro members forged strong connections to their communities that cut across lineage divisions.
Poro Headdress (Kworo), 19th–mid-20th century,Côte d’Ivoire; Senufo.Wood, cloth, cane, mud. Courtesy:The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Gift of Allan Frumkin, 1962. (Poro initiation associations across northern Côte d’Ivoire actively sponsored the arts during the twentieth century. They acquired a diverse range of helmet masks and headdresses for their members to wear at funerals and on other occasions, including the celebration of members’ advancement into higher stages of the initiation cycle. Members at each level learned a specific body of knowledge and set of rituals. The evening before their entrance into the sacred grove at the beginning of the intermediate stage of poro, initiates in some Nafara Senufo towns danced in public performances referred to as kworo and wore headdresses of this kind. Basketry caps secured wooden panels to the tops of the initiates’ heads.)
Young initiates are spotted wearing tall, rectangular, boardlike kworo headdresses painted with checkerboard patterns. Initiates wore kworo masks during a public performance on the eve of their entrance into the sacred grove. They learned how to meet social obligations, work with peers, and respect their elders. Despite its presumed uniform character and its close association with Senufo culture, poro and the arts linked to the association display striking formal and functional variation.
Senufo blacksmith mask
In some communities, poro initiates prohibited uninitiated men, women, and children from seeing their impressive arts, a regulation akin to ones West African power associations maintain. The works and performances connected to them offer unique expressions of artists’ and patrons’ commitments to goals that include the promotion of hard work, community relations, and reverence for the deceased.
Poro has historically been responsible for the transmission of histories, genealogies, and other knowledge and has contributed to diverse and dynamic artistic production in northern Côte d’Ivoire (Susan Elizabeth Gagliardi2008/9)
Bird (Sejen), 19th–mid-20th century. Côte d’Ivoire; Senufo Wood.
(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.)
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. Though divination, which is governed by the Sandogo society, is also an important part of Senufo religion, Sandogo is usually considered a women’s society, men who are called to the profession and inherit through the matrilineal line are permitted to become diviners 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.
Figurine, 19th–mid-20th century
Côte d’Ivoire or Burkina Faso; Senufo or Tussian Copper alloy
(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).
Divinatory spirits and sculptures created for them are often referred to as ndebele, madebele, and tugubele (sing.: ndeo, madeo, and tugu) in several Senufo dialects. People commonly link divinatory spirits with nature, namely water, trees, and uncultivated landscapes beyond town and city limits. They conceive of nature spirits as anthropomorphic beings with feet that point backwards, often invisible to the human eye.
Male and Female Poro Altar Figures (Ndebele), 19th–mid-20th century. Côte d’Ivoire; SenufoWood, pigment. The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979 (The female figure in this pair stands taller than its male companion, reflecting an aesthetic choice common in Senufo sculpture. Artists elevate the stature of the female form to honor women and allude to their maternal roles in poro, an initiation cycle that transforms uninitiated boys into productive adults. Membership in poro is largely male and in sandogo is largely female. The arts and practices of both institutions demonstrate the interdependence of both genders.)
According to these beliefs, nature spirits may assist people to maintain good health, achieve success, and develop satisfactory relationships with friends and family. Spirits can also be held accountable for people’s illness or hardship, however, and are regarded with ambivalence. Hunters, farmers, and others who enter the wilderness or who otherwise come into contact with trees and natural water sources consider risks taken when they approach places where nature spirits are believed to reside. They rely on preemptive measures designed to appease spirits who may be offended when people track game, till the land, draw water, or otherwise invade spirit domains. Diviners similarly commission sculptures to appeal to capricious spirits and seek their goodwill. The diversity of divinatory arts attests to diviners’ perceptions of nature spirits’ unique preferences and artists’ interpretations of them.
Face Mask (Kpeliye’e), 19th–mid-20th century.Côte d’Ivoire; Senufo. Wood, horns, raffia fiber, cotton cloth, feather, metal, sacrificial material. (Throughout the twentieth century, members of poro, a Senufo initiation association, wore small, finely carved face masks as insignia. The masks, known as kpeliye’e, feature delicate oval faces with geometric projections at the sides. Raised and incised scarification patterns ornament their smooth, glossy surfaces. Considered feminine, the masks honor deceased Senufo elders with their grace and beauty. They provide a complement to the aggressive Senufo helmet masks also sponsored by fraternal organizations in the region. The feathers and animal horns attached to this example are unusual, and may have reflected its owner’s power to counteract negative forces in the community.)
The Senufo people have a variety of masks, each having a use for different occasions. One of the famous masks used by the Poro society was the Kpeli-yehe mask, an anthropomorphic mask worn at funeral ceremonies, compelling the spirit of the deceased to leave his house.
Face Mask (Kpeliye’e), 19th–mid-20th century, Côte d’Ivoire; Senufo Wood.
Another, more rare mask, the Degele mask, which originated from a few villages in the vicinity of Korhogo town, and were danced in the kuumo ceremony (“Great Festival of the Dead”) in a male and female pair. The Kagba mask was famous among the southern Senufo group of the Nafara, a zoomorphic mask worn with a costume consisting of a tent like structure of reeds and covered with ornamentally painted mats of blankets, and was danced by a single performer.
Janus Helmet Mask (Wanyugo), 19th–mid-20th century,Côte d’Ivoire; Senufo.Wood, pigmen.(This mask’s virulent attributes, for example, its open jaws and sharp teeth like the crocodile’s and tusks like the warthog’s, are but a few of the elements that allude to the aggressive character of a masquerade designed to deter nefarious pursuits. The dominant motifs of wanyugo helmet masks are the tusks that sprout from the top and sides of the two snouts and the pointed teeth. The sculptor of this mask contrasts the sharp angles of the many teeth and tusks with the more supple forms of a pair of chameleons at the top of the helmet. The chameleons, lizards known for their abilities to change their skin color, grip a small bowl designed to contain potent substances, a motif that suggests transformational powers and esoteric knowledge associated with the mask and its performance.
The double-sided construction of the wanyugo helmet adds to its effectiveness in confronting harmful forces. The fantastical faces can anticipate and combat evil from any vantage point and in doing so amplify the mask’s potency. Senufo artists combine a dynamic mask with dance movements and musical accompaniment that present audiences with powerful and complex images designed to protect the community from harm.)
The double headed Wanyugo mask, or as is sometimes referred to in the western world, the Firespitter mask or Janus Buffalo helmet mask, belonged to the Wabele society. The task of the Wabele society was to destroy negative forces (dee bele) and harmful spirits (nika’abele) who, in the shape of monsters or wild animals, threaten people in times of crisis or vulnerability, as, for instance, during burial ceremonies. According to some Senufo lore, the masks derive their power from magical /medicinal substances placed in a cup that is carved into the top of the mask, however the potion can only become effective if supplemented by a costume of cotton fabric, and danced to music in the context of a ceremony.
Male Poro Figure (Pombia), 19th–mid-20th century
Côte d’Ivoire; Senufo, Tyebara Wood. Courtesy:The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Gift of Nelson A. Rockefeller.(Known as pombibele (sing.: pombia), or “children of poro,” such imposing male and female figures were the major sculptural forms commissioned by the poro association in Senufo communities of Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, and Burkina Faso. During funerals and commemorative ceremonies for distinguished association members, male figures like this one stood with female companions evoking a primordial couple. Sculptural pairs honored the deceased as they entered the society of ancestral spirits and recalled their lineage extending back to their earliest ancestors. On these occasions, poro members displayed pombibele figures in architectural settings or tapped them on the ground to the rhythm of drums in a procession.)
Although poro is essentially a male institution, the most important ancestor invoked is a woman, the head of the poro chapter’s founding matrilineage. Senufo artists often rendered female representations taller than their male companions. Their asymmetrical treatment of poro sculptural couples emphasizes the importance of women as matrices of life.
Senufo man performing traditional rituals
Senufo statuary varies a great deal, from as little as 6” tall to 6 foot tall. One Senufo Tribe Bird sculpture of the most popular is the Pombibele ‘those who give birth’, or Rhythm pounder as they are fondly referred to by westerners. They were used during various rituals that took place before and after the burial of a deceased Poro society elder. Initiates who visit the house of the deceased carry them, and one is sometimes placed in a shroud alongside the corpse at the public ceremonies that follow. The initiated would then, while accompanying the corpse to its burial place, swing and pound the Pombile on the ground in time with the solemn music of the Poro society. At the burial site, shortly before nightfall, once the soil is heaped over the grave, a male initiate may in a final and decisive gesture leap onto the mound and beat the ground seven times. This pounding is to ensure the spirit of the deceased does not linger in the vicinity, but undertakes its journey to the ‘village of the dead’. Another famous piece of Senufo statuary is the poropianong, meaning ‘mother of the Poro child,’ many of the secret Poro societies would have one of these large standing bird sculptures. The statue was kept in the sacred forest, and was used in rites of passage for the admission of initiates to the final phase of training.
Helmet Mask (Kponyugo), 19th–mid-20th century.Côte d’Ivoire; Senufo Wood.(kponyugo helmet masks foster spectators’ uncertainty and apprehension. The mask’s open jaws and sharp teeth appear ready to devour its prey and thus visually underscore its ferocity. Members of poro and other fraternal associations in the region don composite helmet masks and full-body outfits during funerals and on other occasions to punish human lawbreakers and deter malevolent spirits. Due to the aggressive and combative nature of the helmet masks and their performances, women and children are enjoined to avoid seeing them, a stricture honored due to the costly consequences that transgressions precipitate.)
Ancestral figures were also carved by the Senufo representing the primordial ancestors of their people, often placed in the village centre at a form of shrine where tribe members could honor and pay respects to their ancestors, often taking them offerings when asking for assistance or guidance.
Twin Figurine, 19th–mid-20th century
Côte d’Ivoire or Burkina Faso; Senufo or Tussian Brass. Courtesy: The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John J. Klejman, 1964 (1978.412.496).
Many of the most distinguished diviners in Senufo communities in northern Côte d’Ivoire belong to the sando association. Throughout the mid- to late twentieth century, sando membership typically passed through the mother’s line. Only a select few sando members studied divination. Most sando diviners were women, although occasionally men entered the practice. Many new sando diviners first acquired miniature metal sculptures in the form of figurative twins.
Twin Figurine, 19th–mid-20th century
Côte d’Ivoire or Burkina Faso; Senufo or Tussian
Brass. Coutersy: The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Gift
of Mr. and Mrs. John J. Klejman, 1964 (Twin or doubled imagery is a prominent feature of Senufo divination arts. Artists create twin figurines for the diviners and their clients who seek spiritual intercession to guide them in their work and secure their well-being. In this context, figurative pairs refer to coupled bush spirits, water spirits, biological twins, and other world partners.)
Smaller cast brass figurines are more portable than larger wooden sculptures and far less costly, thus they were easier for diviners to procure early in their careers. Practitioners who advanced eventually sought more finely carved wooden sculptures for their consultation rooms.
Senufo communities also support non-sando diviners, some of them senior members of the poro initiation association. They also rely on the arts to identify problems in clients’ lives and provide prescriptions. While sando diviners often sought smaller spirit sculptures convenient to carry with them, other diviners apparently commissioned larger figurative sculptures.
Kponungo Mask (aka the Firespitter)
Women and men who work as diviners in Senufo communities and elsewhere in West Africa employ a range of arts and techniques. Many diviners receive clients in small, intimate consultation rooms. Wooden and metal sculptures, pottery, textiles, and earthen bas-reliefs often dominate the windowless rooms, lit only by the sunlight that enters through the open doorframe. In one form of divination common in many Senufo communities, the diviner sits either next to or opposite the client and holds the client’s hand. The diviner first calls for the nature spirits’ attention.
The diviner then presents the spirits with a series of questions in order to determine the reason for the client’s visit. To identify the source of the client’s concerns, the diviner holds one of the client’s hands and interprets the movements of the diviner’s and client’s hands as they move together, sometimes slapping against the diviner’s leg. The diviner continues the process to determine a suitable course of action for the client. The diviner may additionally use musical instruments, sculptured figurines, or found objects to assess a client’s concerns. The caliber of the arts used in a diviner’s practice announces competence and accomplishment. Diviners who earn renown and attract clients from distant locales often have the means to commission more ambitious works.
Turtle Amulet (Yawiige), 19th–mid-20th century
Côte d’Ivoire or Burkina Faso; Senufo or Tussian
Copper alloy, Courtesy:The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John J. Klejman, 1964 (Senufo diviners prescribe to their clients the acquisition of fine ornaments created from copper alloys in order to manage difficulties, treat illnesses, and attain goals. The neat concentric rings, four round feet, two small eyes, and triangular tail on the stylized turtle ornament shown here reflect the skill of the metalsmith who created this work. Turtles and other animals, including pythons and chameleons, refer to the spirit world. In executing such ornaments, artists create works to please nature spirits empowered to intervene in human affairs. The greater the level of artistry, the more effective such works are considered.)
At the conclusion of a consultation, the client receives medicinal prescriptions or detailed instructions concerning appropriate offerings. The diviner may also advise the client to obtain a specific body adornment or figurative sculpture from an artist. For example, diviners often recommend rings, pendants, bracelets, or anklets featuring chameleons and other animals considered intermediaries between human and spirit realms. Referred to as yawiige in some Senufo languages, the ornaments are believed to help appease spirits according to their wishes as revealed through divination. Diviners themselves acquire similar ornaments from artists in the region to manage their own relationships with nature spirits.
Ring with Chameleon (Yawiige), 19th–20th century
Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, or Burkina Faso; Senufo Brass.(yawiige, a Senufo term that means “something that follows you.” Yawiige refers to pendants, bracelets, anklets, and rings that diviners advise their clients to acquire from local artists. The ornaments redress conflicts uncovered through divination and offer their owners protection from harm. Given each client’s uniqueness and the personal nature of divination, an ornament’s form does not reveal the reasons for which it was prescribed or worn. Chameleons appear frequently in Senufo arts and are considered a primordial animal. Chameleon images often grace yawiige rings, as seen on this example.)
Divination underlies the creation of many forms of artistic expression in Senufo and other communities across West Africa. Diviners invest in the arts to foster personal relationships with the spirit world and enhance communication between nature spirits and humans. They and their clients seek works in wood, metal, and other media from artists in order to gain insight into the causes of disruptions in their lives and move beyond them.
Senufo mask dancers
Festival and music
The Senufo are outstanding musicians, using marimbas, tuned iron gongs, and a variety of drums, horns, and flutes. They are also internationally famous carvers of wood sculpture, mainly masks and figures.
Senufo dancers at Balafon festival in Mali. courtesy www.corbisimages.com -
The balafon of the Senufo communities of Mali, Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire is a pentatonic xylophone, known locally as the ncegele. The ncegele is composed of eleven to twenty-one keys of varying lengths, made of wood, and arranged on a trapezoidal frame, also made of wood or bamboo. The instrument has calabash gourd resonators of varying sizes, arranged beneath the frame proportionally to the keys. The gourds are perforated and the holes are covered with spider’s egg-sac filaments to enhance the sound.
Senufo man dancing to traditional music
The tuning of the ncegele is based on a division of the octave into five equal intervals, and the sounds are produced by striking the keys with wooden sticks with a rubber beater fitted to the end. Played solo or as part of an ensemble, the musical discourse of the balafon is based on a range of multiple rhythmic melodies.
The ncegele provides entertainment during festivities, accompanies prayers in the parishes and in sacred woods, stimulates enthusiasm for work, punctuates funerary music and supports the teaching of value systems, traditions, beliefs, customary law, and rules of ethics governing society and the individual in day-to-day activities. The player first learns to play a children’s balafon, later moving on to full-size balafons, under the instruction of a teacher.
A balafon festival of the Senufo people of west Africa. Photograph: Sebastien Cailleux/Sygma/Corbis.
Locally-made mud cloth is cotton cloth decorated and dyed with natural materials that blend into the colors of the Senufo landscape. Originally, the clothes made from mud cloth were worn only by hunters, who appreciated the cloth’s natural camouflaging ability. Now up to one-quarter of the population wears mud cloth as everyday clothing. Though more expensive, the cloth is popular with non-hunters because it does not show dirt. Mothers will wrap their babies to their backs using large, rectangular mud cloths.
Mud cloths are made of 100% cotton that is locally grown, spun, and woven. Before the colonization of Africa by Europeans, cotton was grown in small amounts for local use. Now, it is the main cash crop of the Senufo, which means that most of the cotton is raised to be sold to other countries.
Through observation and practice, anyone in the village can learn to make a mud cloth. Some, though, are recognized as having special talent in this area. These individuals will sell their cloth to a much wider market, some as far away as Europe. With this expansion of trade to other continents, some artists have begun signing their work.
The dry funerals celebration of Burkina Faso Senufo people
For Senufo, funeral ceremonies are celebrated by two stages.
Firstly, the “wet funeral” which happen in the days following the death of the deceased and last only one day. Only a small committee to attend this funeral.
One or more years after the burial of the deceased become the “dry funeral”. Called “Yagbaga” in Senufo. These events are always held when the granaries are full of food, after harvest, and during the dry season.
Dry funeral has to be a purification and to support of the deceased in the afterlife. These rituals last for several days. During this period, the village of the deceased is in spree, and its activity is punctuated by the funeral dances and festivities.
For the occasion, the religious masks getting out. Each mask is made by a delegation from one of the surrounding villages.
Each mask symbolizes a mystical animal. A mask is not only the object that covers the face, it is also the attire and the dance that come with it.
The dances performed by the masks are scary, this is for driving out the evil spirits and to motivate the ancestors’ spirits to make good welcome to the deceased. Dozo adhere to this tradition. They come from afar to attend the funeral celebrations of one of their community member.
Mask dancing to music Senufo
Poro initiate dancer in trance, Burkina Faso
Senufo Dozo playing Ngoni, also called harp lute
Masks and musicians draw a round to make a dance floor
Mask men procession
Senufo village in Burkina Faso
Senufo people, Ivory Coast
Senufo Kponyungo, Ivory Coast
Two Senufo dancers from Boundiali. They were a headdress adorned with cowrie shells,feathers on their back and a grass back skirt. They wear this during the Ngoro-dance, as they complete their initiation. Cowrie shells symbolize fertility and wealth. ca prior to 1969.
Two Senufo dancers from Boundiali. They wear a headdress adorned with cowrie shells,feathers on their back and a grass back skirt. They wear this during the Ngoro-dance, as they complete their initiation. Cowrie shells symbolize fertility and wealth. ca prior to 1969.
Photo source: toukan