Poro Headdress (Kworo), 19th–mid–20th century
Côte d'Ivoire; Senufo
Wood, cloth, cane, mud
H. 29 1/8 in. (74 cm), W. 22 in. (55.9 cm), D. 6 1/2 in. (16.5 cm)
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Gift of Allan Frumkin, 1962 (1978.412.457)
Poro initiation associations across northern Côte d'Ivoire actively sponsored the arts during the twentieth century. They acquired a diverse range of helmet masks and headdresses for their members to wear at funerals and on other occasions, including the celebration of members' advancement into higher stages of the initiation cycle. Members at each level learned a specific body of knowledge and set of rituals. The evening before their entrance into the sacred grove at the beginning of the intermediate stage of poro, initiates in some Nafara Senufo towns danced in public performances referred to as kworo and wore headdresses of this kind. Basketry caps secured wooden panels to the tops of the initiates' heads. Artists carved openwork designs into the planks or painted them with geometric patterns similar to those found on textiles. Pierced panels like this one commonly feature stylized human, animal, or nature spirit figures at the center. Father Pierre Knops photographed a kworo ceremony in northern Côte d'Ivoire in the 1920s or early 1930s, and the art historian Albert Maesen acquired a painted kworo headdress in the same area in the late 1930s.