Senufo Pombia / Deble Rhythm Pounder Figure

Lovely aged Senufo Pombia / Deble rhythm pounder figure with nice styling.

Tribe: Senufo

Origin: Talekaha, Korhogo Region Ivory Coast

Approx Age: Early 20th Century

Materials: Heavy and dense wood

Dimensions cm: 129 tall

Ref. Number: 0975


A beautiful and very old Senufo Pombia rhythm pounder figure,  also mainly known as “Deble” bush spirit pounders. This is one of two we found in Talekaha in the Korhogo region of Ivory Coast, both believed to carved by the same carver. The head adorned with a crocodile, associated with intellectual power, significant of the knowledge the elders hope to impart on the young initiates. The female figure wears a necklace, arm and wrist bangles along with a few age cracks now and quite age-related features too.   I have never seen pounders as old as this in one piece, this is still very solid and extremely heavy, exquisite and absolutely stunning.


The social, economic and spiritual lives of Senufo men are governed by an overarching initiation society known as Poro. A Senufo man must pass through all stages of the initiation society to be considered a rounded man with full insight into ancestral teachings and traditions. Each vocational group (including farmers, traders and artists) has its own Poro group through which they must graduate before becoming a member of the Senufo community.

Traditional sculpture of figures and masks play an important role in the Poro society. An example is the pombia (also called poro pia, nedo, doogele; pl. poro piibele, pombibele, ndble; meaning ‘child of poro’ or ‘those who give birth’) figure said to represent the ideal Senufo woman and man—the primordial ancestors. Pombia ‘rhythm-pounder’ figures are used to commemorate recently deceased Poro elders during their funerals, and to ensure their safe passage into the land of ancestors.

During funeral processions, male and female pombia figures are carried by the upper arms, swung from side to side and pounded on the ground regularly. This is to drive away evil spirits thus creating a smooth and safe passage for the deceased’s spirit into the land of ancestors. The initiates carrying the figures then circle the elder’s body three times (symbolising the three stages of Poro initiation).

When not in used, Pombia figures are stored in a sacred grove (sinzanga) located outside of the village.

NOTE: Debele, short for madebele (meaning ‘bush spirits’), has been used as a class name for both the rhythm-pounders and display-sculpture subtypes.
NOTE: Figures held by neck or shoulders when not being swung.

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