Ancestor Bird Sculpture


Ancestor Bird Sculpture by NOA LIVING

Ancestor Bird Sculpture

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In the culture of the Senufo people of Africa, there is a society of initiated men known as Poro. Poro functions as a system of governmental and economic control, preparing the young men for their roles as adults and serving as a channel for the worship of ancestors and of Ancient Mother, one of the two principal Senufo deities. The bird figures are among the many art forms associated with the society and are kept in the sacred grove of Poro where they stand guard protecting the members. During initiations and funeral rituals the birds are carried in processions and are sometimes worn on the head in dramatic displays of strength. Senufo bird figures refer to the physical and intellectual aspects of life. The unique carved elements stand to represent fertility and reproductions, intellectual power, wisdom, authority, and the wealth of knowledge embodied by the Poro. The sculpture celebrates the authority and leadership of Poro elders who are considered the metaphorical mothers of junior Poro initiates.

The rarity of these sculptures suggests that by the twentieth century few associations in the northern Cote d’Ivoire invested in the master artisans who created these pieces. Poro and its art forms continue to play roles in Senufo society, although the bird figures have become rare.
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early 20th century


  • Geography: Cote d'Ivoire, northern Ivory Coast
  • Medium: Wood, pigment & Metal
  • Culture: Senufo people

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