Among the most famous statues of African art are a series known as the Pombibele, “those who give birth.” This large sculpture, appropriately enough in the form of a woman, would have been used during the funeral ceremonies of Poro members, a male "secret" society, headed by the village elders, where the sacred knowledge of manhood is transferred to young initiates. In the southern Senufo area, these statues are carried and then pounded on the ground, providing rhythm for the dancers.
This sculpture is the representation of an idealized woman. Her elongated, sinuous forms are based upon the ideals of femininity. Her face appears like a typical Senufo mask with its semi-circular eyes, arched brows, pointed chin, and protruding mouth with pursed lips. Ritualistic scarifications around her face, including the diagonal slants descending from the bridge of her nose and the lines around her mouth are also indicative of the Senufo. The forms and composition of the figure are just the beginning of its beauty. For in this work, form and function are intertwined and inseparable. Funeral ceremonies, while generally somber occasions, can also become celebrations of life, as is implied by this sculpture. We can hear the beat of its pounding, we can picture the dancers, we can sense something greater than our eyes behold.