Hornbill figures, called Setien or Porpianong, were used by the Lo and Poro societies. A symbol of fertility and the original ancestor cult, the hornbill was the mythological founder of the Senufo people. The figures were originally worn on the head during long dances and processions. The Setien, hermaphrodictic, represent procreation, with their long hooked beaks touching their protruding stomachs that they have fertilized, therefore being the carrier of life and a symbol of continuity to future generations.

Hornbills are noble birds; they mate for life, they share equally in the raising of their young who they protect by spreading their wings. They are depicted in their erect, protective stance.
The variety of size, style, skill and surface finish reflects the range of the more than a million Senufo peoples living in the Ivory Coast, Mali, Burkina Faso and Ghana.

HORNBILL FIGURE, Ivory Coast © John Urban