Female Acrobat--Painting of an African Mask
Senufo Peoples, Ivory Coast
This is the female Poro mask of a male-female pair of dancers or acrobats.
Within Senufo culture, the female form is held above all others in terms of beauty and aesthetics and caryatid figures are seen with various cultural connotations. This is tied into the worship of the spirit, "Ancient Mother", or the spirit, "mother", Maleeo, who is revered as the guiding entity by all Poro society initiates and members.The goddess Maleeo has a partner, the god Kolocolo, who is seen as the identifying deity of the Sandogo, who granted the people marriage and this particular type of lineage to allow communication from humanity and the spirit world.Caryatid figures are seen as representations of the role of women as spiritual mediators and the Sandogo use them in ceremonies as symbols of this bilateral celestial discourse. Likewise, in the case of the Poro, there are writings about caryatid figures being used in ceremonies where they are brought out to commemorate advancement in the age-grade cycle, as well as being used to raise funds by initiates of the society. Calved figures were used in a tyekpa funeral ceremony as dance sculpture, held upon the head of the dancers while the ceremony takes place.
The traditional Senufo religion is a type of animism. This Senufo belief includes ancestral and nature spirits, who may be contacted. They believe in a Supreme Being, who is viewed in a dual female-male: an Ancient Mother, Maleeo or Katieleo, and a male Creator God, Kolotyolo or Koulotiolo.
One in a series of eleven paintings inspired by tribal African Masks from museum or private collections. The mask was in use during the 19th and early 20th centuries.