Senufo Kpeleyayo Fetish Mask

Rare Senufo Poro society fetish mask known as ‘Kpeleyayo’ 

Tribe: Senufo

Origin: Napie, Korhogo Region of Cote d’Ivoire

Approx Age: 1970-80s

Materials: Wood, feathers, (offerings?)

Dimensions cm: 54 x 23

Ref. Number: 1460


A very rare Senufo Kpeleyayo fetish mask found in a village in the Korhogo region known as ‘Napie‘. These are rarely seen by anyone outside of the Poro society, there is no information to say why and what happens with this mask apart from it is only worn by the Shamen who brings it from his dwelling to receive offerings of libations for the ancestors then put away again after the Poro ceremony. This is the only information the village elder would give us.


This mask is thick with libations from the Shamen for the ancestors and the Poro society, to the point of being hard to make out its original definition.

There are a number of revered ancestor and nature spirits among the Senufo. Maleeo and Kolotyolo (“Ancient Mother” and “Creator God”) represent a dualistic deity. Kolotyolo is not approachable and can only be reached through Yiriigifolo or Nyehene. In the region of Kufulo, Maleeo is represented by the sacred drums before whom all thieves and murderers are brought for trial. The Poro society is reserved primarily for men, although young girls and postmenopausal women are permitted to join. The main function of Poro is to guarantee a good relationship between the living world and the ancestors. Nerejao is an ancestress who is recognized as the true head of the Poro society. Divination, which is governed by the Sandogo society, is also an important part of Senufo religion. Although Sandogo is usually considered a women’s society, men who are called to the profession and inherit through the matrilineal line are permitted to become diviners.

The Senufo people emerged as a group sometime within the 15th or 16th century. They were a significant part of the 17th to 19th-century Kenedougou Kingdom (literally “country of the plain”) with the capital of Sikasso. This region saw many wars including the rule of Daoula Ba Traoré, a cruel despot who reigned between 1840 and 1877. The Islamisation of the Senufo people began during this historical period of the Kénédougou Kingdom, but it was the chiefs who converted, while the general Senufo population refused. Daoula Ba Traoré attempted to convert his kingdom to Islam, destroying many villages within the kingdom such as Guiembe and Nielle in 1875 because they resisted his views. The Kénédougou dynastic rulers attacked their neighbours as well, such as the Zarma people and they, in turn, counterattacked many times between 1883 and 1898.

The pre-colonial wars and violence led to their migration into Burkina Faso in regions that became towns such as Tiembara in Kiembara Department. The Kénédougou kingdom and the Traoré dynasty were dissolved in 1898 with the arrival of French colonial rule.

Contact Exquisite African Art

1 + 6 =

Telephone: +44 (0)1623 884387

Follow us

Subscribe to our mailing list

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This