ANTIQUE WOODEN SENUFO FEMALE DEBLE FIGURE FROM BURKINA FASO
The Senufo are the ancestral tribe that inhabited the African region of Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Mali, and Burkina Faso. The social, economic and spiritual lives of Senufo men are governed by an overarching initiation society known as Poro. A Senufo man must pass through all stages of the initiation society to be considered a rounded man with full insight into ancestral teachings and traditions. Each vocational group (including farmers, traders and artists) has its own Poro group through which they must graduate before becoming a member of the Senufo community.
Traditional sculpture of figures and masks play an important role in the Poro society. An example is the gahariga (also called sejen; meaning 'bird') hornbill figure believed to represent the Senufo primordial ancestors.
As an emblem of the authority and wisdom of elders within Senufo communities, gahariga hornbill figures are kept in the forests close to where young boys are initiated, to protect them from malicious forces.
This large wooden spirit figure is rare as it combines and showcases two distinctive signature art-forms of the Senufo - the hornbill known as Sejen and a female figure which is known as a deble [day-blay], or "bush spirit," used during funeral ceremonies and placed in the center of the ceremonial ground. During dances it is pounded on the ground to provide rhythm for the dancers. It is an extremely hard and heavy wood with a fine touch of patina, which also verifies its high age of about hundred years. The statue is in excellent condition.