Exhibitions/ Art Object

Male Poro Altar Figure (Ndeo)

19th–mid-20th century
Côte d'Ivoire, Korhogo, Bandama River
Senufo peoples
Wood, pigment
H. 23 1/2 x W. 5 3/8 x D. 4 1/2in. (59.7 x 13.6 x 11.4cm)
Credit Line:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 350
In Senufo society, men's poro and women's sandogo associations are directly engaged with the spiritual forces that affect human well-being. The fundamental partnership of man and woman is a dynamic that is clearly underscored in Senufo social institutions and forms of artistic expression. This cultural ideal is evident in Senufo accounts of genesis in which Kolotyolo sets life in motion with his creation of a first man and woman who become parents to the first children, a pair of twins, one male and one female. Positioned on an altar, this sculpture and its counterpart were created to appeal to the intermediaries of nature spirits and to reflect on their patron's status and prestige. The scale of this sculptural pair suggests that they served as spirit figures, or ndebele (sing. ndeo), belonging to a senior member of poro. The term ndebele refers to both altar figures and to nature spirits, a testimony to their close connection. The 1963 MPA exhibition brought together a diverse array of Senufo sculpture from its own collection as well as those in important private and public collections to make audiences aware of the range of creative expression concentrated within a single region. Works featured ranged from face and helmet masks to large figurative sculptures, as well as small personal objects. African art scholar Jacqueline Delange summarized Goldwater's curatorial choices with the following words: "It is easy to find in these exhibitions the results of his obstinate efforts to obtain a highly pertinent and exemplary sampling of forms . . . Goldwater's choices were discreet, prudent, preferably oriented by current studies and established knowledge, but always sustained by firm requirements of visual quality."
[Aaron Furman Gallery, New York, until 1960]; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, 1960, on loan to The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1960–1978

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Art of Oceania, Africa, and the Americas from the Museum of Primitive Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1969, no. 277.

The American Federation of Arts. Primitive Art Masterworks: an exhibition jointly organized by the Museum of Primitive Art and the American Federation of Arts, New York. New York: The American Federation of Arts, 1974, no. 193b.

Newton, Douglas. Masterpieces of Primitive Art: The Nelson A. Rockefeller Collection. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1978, p. 174.

Glaze, Anita J. "The Children of Poro: A re-examination of the Rhythm-Pounder in Senufo Art, its Form and Meaning." Connaissance des Arts Tribaux, Bulletin publie par l'association des amis du Musée Barbier-Müller vol. 20 (1983), pp. 1–6.

Förster, Till. Die Kunst der Senufo: Museum Rietberg Zürich aus Schweizer Sammlungen. Zürich: Museum Rietberg, 1988.

Glaze, Anita J. "17. Senufo, Poro society female figure and 18. Senufo, Poro society professional figure." In Art of Côte d'Ivoire from the collections of the Barbier-Mueller Museum, edited by Jean-Paul Barbier. Vol. vol. 2. Geneva: Musée Barbier-Mueller, 1993, pp. 54-85 [N.B. See especially Fig. 79, p. 79 and the accompanying caption on p. 78.].

Glaze, Anita J. "Pillars of the Community: Memorial figures for Ancestral and Recently Deceased 'Children of Poro' [Pombibele]." In Constellations: Studies in African Art, edited by Marie-Thérèse Brincard. Vol. vol. 1. Purchase: Neuberger Museum of Art, State University of New York at Purchase, 2009.

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