The Kissi people revere stone anthropomorphic
carvings found in fields and rivers in an area
centered around the Sewa and Mano Rivers.
They are called Pombo, meaning, “the deceased.”
These carvings are extremely old and it was not
until 1959 that Western scholars associated
them with the so-called Afro-Portuguese ivory
objects carved by artists of the Sapi kingdom.
Although the Sapi kingdom collapsed in the 16th
century, there art survived buried beneath the
ground. Occasionally, these ancient works would
be accidentally unearthed usually through
flooding or farming. Kissi artists would often
rework the Sapi sculptures, resulting in a
multitude of variations of types and styles. This
impressive work represents one of the more
celebrated types; that of a mythical horned man.
It is likely this figure depicts either a composite
deity that is part human and part ram or a tribal
chief wearing a horned crown. While either
identity is possible, it is certain that this
sculpture depicts a person of unquestionable
authority and power. His head is
disproportionate to the rest of his minimally
rendered body. He stands alongside two staffs,
another clear sign of his rank and authority.
According to Kissi belief, such sculptures were
thought to act as intermediaries between the
living and their deceased ancestors. They would
be worshiped on small altars or in deep bowls.
This imposing sculpture, a literal relic of the
past, continued to communicate with the lost
world he left behind. Magically unearthed, he is
a gift from the past to the present. The Kissi
tribe frequently reworked such sculptures to
update their themes and make them more
relevant to their daily lives. However, the image
of a horned man is a universal symbol of power
that occurs is the art of most civilizations
throughout history. This imposing work was
surely as revered by the Kissi villagers who
discovered it as by the Sapi artists who crafted it.