Photographs © Tim Hamill
Although elegantly carved, this Senufo figure shows no evidence of age or use and was probably made to be sold.
The rhythm pounder (deble) from the Senufo people of the Ivory Coast was once a crucial prop in both commemorative ancestral rites and in initiations of adolescents to adult society; it was also a benevolent symbol of fertility and a conduit to the departed.
The few known male and female rhythm pounder pairs are thought to represent the primordial couple, referred to as 'Pombibele', which means "those who gave birth".
Typically it is female figures are represented and it has been speculated that these single figures are one of a pair, the location of the other being unknown. According to Anita Glaze (in Barbier, ed. 1993: 44), however, 'not all funerary sculpture is commissioned as a pair, nor do all relatively large scale processional display figures necessarily belong to the primordial couple category. A poro society may possess one or more single figures that were initially commissioned as a result of a member's visionary encounter with spirits in dreams or while alone in the fields.'
These pounders were traditionally used at funeral ceremonies for Poro society members. In some areas, they are actually pounded, at others, they are gathered at the center of the ceremonial grounds.
Sources: Sotheby's, A History of Art in Africa
Copied from the very informative site: www.randafricanart.com
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