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Ancestral carving shaped like hornbill bird, as used by the Senufo

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of Ivory Coast, West Africa

Postcard of Ancestral carving shaped like hornbill bird, as used by the Senufo.
© National Museums Scotland

Ancestral carving shaped like hornbill bird, as used by the Senufo

This figure is thought to represent the mythical founder of the human race, existing in the form of a hornbill. It was placed on the head of new members as they joined a secret men's society called the Korogho Society.

Carved from a single piece of wood, this hornbill is shown with rectangular wings outstretched. Three snakes, another item of symbolic significance in Senufo culture, are shown on the front of the wings. The underside of its base is hollow.

The ancestors have traditionally been revered in Africa south of the Sahara, and called upon to help the living. The hornbill, whose names include 'kasingele' - 'the first ancestor', is connected with the origin of the Senufo people.

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Online ID: 000-180-000-793-C
Image Rights Holder: National Museums Scotland
Project: 0504: National Museums Scotland Part 2
Project description | View all records in project
Ref: National Museums Scotland  A.1961.1111
Date: Mid 20th century
Dimensions: 18.00" W x 53.00" H
What: Figure, totemic
Subject: Carvings and masks
Where: Ivory Coast, Upper Ivory Coast
Description: Massive totemic figure carved in soft wood, in the form of a toucan with outstretched, with the body interpenetrating a rectangular board: West Africa, Ivory Coast, Upper Ivory Coast, Senofo peoples,
  • Goldwater, R. J . Senufo Sculpture from West Africa. Greenwich, Conn,: New York Graphic Society, 1964 . 
  • Phillips, T (ed). Africa: The Art of a Continent. London: Royal Academy of Arts, 1995, 457 
  • Sheridan, J A (ed). Heaven and Hell and Other Worlds of the Dead. Edinburgh: National Museum of Scotland, 2000. 
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