Senufo Kpelie Mask

Danced mostly at funerals by members of the Poro society in order to drive the spirit of the deceased among the living.

Tribe: Senufo / Senoufo

Origin: Ivory Coast

Approx Age: Mid-Later 20th Century

Materials: Wood, plant fibre

Dimensions cm: 36 x 18 mask size

Ref. Number: 1459

A very beautiful Senufo Kpelie mask with full head adornment. Stunning carving dark patina and adorned with the bird of peace to the top, beads all around the whole of the outer mask, hooded head adornment and plant fibre hair, wonderful to see a Kpelie in the condition it would actually be danced. Inside of the mask has a lovely wear patina.


Kpeliyé’e (acrobat dancer face) or Kodaliyé’e (opposite Kodal) are the two appellations of this type of facial mask that always comes in pairs (male and female) and danced mostly at funerals by members of the Poro society in order to drive the spirit of the deceased among the living.

Kpelie- whether in carved wood or cast bronze copper alloy– are usually oval in shape with arched crescent shaped eyebrows over narrow slit eyes. The small mouth opens below a slender nose. Scarification marks add to presentation of what is considered beautiful to the Senufo. On either side of the temples are semicircular and rectangular shapes that represent the stylised coiffure worn by Senufo mothers; the centre shapes at the side representing ears. Animal horns– bull, ram or antelope– represent male attributes of the masquerade. There are often two appendages on either side of the chin, “legs” that connect the spirit to the earth. Most important are the figures on the head, which represent an ancestor closely connected with the society’s origin. The figures worn depend on the caste group to which the individuals belong.

However, much of the original significance of these emblems is no longer valid. Wassing has provided the following meanings: a comb, the symbol of agriculture, a bird- especially the hornbill – linked with the smiths, a bundle of palm nuts, symbol of wood carvers, and small human figures connected with merchants.

The hornbill–one of the first creatures on earth– is an important symbol for the Senufo and appears on many of their carvings.


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