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.
SENUFO, HORNBILL FIGURE, Ivory Coast © John Urban