African Art / Works from the Swiss collection of Walter Schwab
Wednesday 13 October 2021, 05:00 PM • Milan
Pair of figures
Hardwood with a dark, glossy patina.
According to an ancient Senufo tradition, these two characters represent the image of the forest’s spirit protectors. The body, which has no feet, is supported by a hemispherical base. These works are rare and the style is similar to the famous pair from Samuel Dubiner’s collection. It is likely that this pair of sculptures were preserved as part of a shrine, covered by a piece of protective fabric.The wood has been carefully polished with abrasive leaves to smoothen the surfaces, on which residues of a light dust are still present.Carved copper disks are nailed into the base of the female sculpture.Some reference images have been sculpted on top of the dance helmets used by those belonging to “Lo” society, a sect that regulated the social and religious life of the entire Senufo people. The dance helmets, which emerged together with the famous Deble sculptures, were worn during the funerals of important figures in the community. The rarity of these helmets is suggested not just by the few sculptures we know of, but also by their purpose, as they were only used for a “grand funeral” that the whole community would attend to commemorate all their deceased ancestors of the past 4 or 5 years.These sculptures are very abstract in nature, with only the face showing a certain similarity to the tradition of Senufo works. The structure of the body, with the spiral neck and the absence of arms, is very rare in Senufo statue work. This style is echoed in some Déguélé dance helmets, which also come from the region of Korhogo. They would have been crafted by the Kiembara subgroup, who worked in the community of Fodombélé. The rooster-crest hairstyle suggests a reference to “the sacred bird of the souls”.
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GOLDWATER ROBERT “Senufo sculpture from West Africa” New York 1964, pag. 21 and figure 84 (1081);
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DERBIER ALAIN "Arte e Cultura Africana: Il Museo SMA di Lione" Publication from the Società Missioni Africane (Society of African Missions), Genoa, January-March 2002, n° 53 (696);
MEYER LAURE “Black Africa: Masks, Sculpture, Jewelry”, Paris 2001, pag. 102 e 103 (773);
FISCHER EBERHARD & HOMBERGER LORENZ “Les Maitres de la sculpture de Cote d’Ivoire” Musée du Quai Branly Paris 2015, pag. 159 – 167 (870);
HAHNER-HERZOG IRIS & KECSKESI MARIA & VAJDA LASZLO "L'Autre Visage: Masques africains de la collection Barbier-Mueller" Geneva 1997, pag. 64 (605);