Senufo Wambele Figure

  • Tribe: Senufo
  • Origin: Ivory Coast
  • Approx Age: 3rd quarter 20th Century
  • Materials: Wood, Material & Feathers
  • Dimensions cm: 41 tall
  • Ref. Number: 0764

Exquisite endearing Senufo Wambele Figure. A wonderful representation of the Senufo Wanyugo dancer.

These very rare Senufo Wanyugo Wambele figure came from a village in Dicodougou. I have only every seen one other of these figures before but with a removable Kponyungo (single headed) helmet rather than the Wanyugo (double headed) helmet. This helmet itself is a true mini replica of the Wanyugo helmet worn at funerals and other celebrations/ceremonies. Every attention to detail is there as it has been carved perfectly, horns, teeth and hollowed all the way through like a full sized helmet would be enabling the dancer to see, also being completely adorned with feathers (chicken or guinea fowl) on the top of the helmet. To the rear of the figure there is a quiver complete with feathers which is held in place with a strap made of material and he wears a heavily soiled cloth outfit to represent a Wanyugo dancer. The arms are also movable (articulated) and in his hands he holds two sticks of command to which would be used to chase away evil unwanted spirits. The figure has an age crack to the side of its head which can be seen once the helmet is taken off.

Senufo Wanyugo Dancer

This is an exquisite piece of Senufo art !!!! The Wambele dancer figure is placed during meetings of the village elders under the Palaver Tree as a witness to the meetings between men and the ancestors.

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Photograph and information below taken from robynfsalter

The palaver tree is a communication method that originates from Western Africa.  It stands for group discussions, problem solving and harmony over truth.  With this communication style, time does not dominate the decisions.  Beneath the palaver tree misunderstandings were resolved and critical community issues were discussed under the direction of the village elders.

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The Senufo produce a rich variety of sculptures, mainly associated with the poro society. The sculptors and metalsmiths, endogamous groups responsible for making the cult objects live on their own in a separate part of the village. The attitude shown toward them by other Senufo is a mixture of fear and respect, owing to their privileged relationship with the natural forces that they are capable of channeling in a sculpture. During initiations, headpieces are worn that have a flat, vertical, round or rectangular board on top decorated with paint or pierced work. Many wood carvings of male figures depict these headpieces, sometimes on rhythm pounders used by young initiates, who beat the earth to call upon the ancestors to take part in the ceremony and purify the earth. The carvers also produce ritual female statues, including mother-and-child figures, as well as statuettes depicting bush spirits and supernatural beings and equestrian figures. Large statues representing hornbills (often seen also on masks) and used in the lo society as symbols of fertility are the standing birds called porpianong. Figures of the hornbill are used in initiation, and groups of birds on a pole are trophies for the best farmer. Figures of male and female twins and of horsemen are used in divination. These represent the spirit familiars enabling the divination process. The diviners themselves are women, forming the sandogo society. Shrine doors and drums are carved in relief, and small figures and ritual rings are cast in bronze.

Senufo Wanyugo Mask