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HOME : African & Tribal Art : Senufo Sculptures : Senufo Wooden Man with a Hoe
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Senufo Wooden Man with a Hoe - PF.5923
Origin: Ivory Coast
Circa: 20 th Century AD
Dimensions: 18" (45.7cm) high x 6.125" (15.6cm) wide
Collection: African
Medium: Wood

Location: United States
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The art of the Senufo tribe is traditionally one of the most popular styles of African art. The graceful contours of their sculptures and the abstract forms of their masks inspired the works modern artists such as Braque, Modigliani, and Picasso. This sculpture represents a rare subject of daily life. This man is bent over at almost a ninety degrees angle. He holds a hoe in his two hands, the shape of which echoes the bend of his back, as he prepares the land for cultivation. Although at first this seems to be a simple agricultural scene, upon further inspection, there is a deeper meaning to the work. When analyzing the attire of the man, we are struck by his conical cap. However this is no wide brimmed hat to protect him from the heat of the sun while tilling the fields. Instead this is the cap that is worn to signify rank in the upper echelons of the Senufo social structure. Thus this man is not a peasant but a high-ranking dignitary or even royalty. His carefully trimmed beard, facial scarifications, and armbands all further enforce his elite status. Perhaps this sculpture was used during harvest rituals in which a memorialized ancestor continues to till the fertile fields. Perhaps this sculpture served a function during ceremonial mourning periods after the passing of an important person. Might this man be preparing the land of the afterworld so that the departed spirit of the ancestor may reap the bountiful harvest of his next life? Much as the aesthetic considerations of Senufo art influenced modern artists, so the spiritual significance of this stunning sculpture must influence us all. - (PF.5923)


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