Vintage African Senufo Peoples Kpele / Kpeili Mask
Vintage African Senufo Peoples Kpele / Kpeili Mask
Vintage African Senufo Peoples Kpele / Kpeili Mask
Vintage African Senufo Peoples Kpele / Kpeili Mask
Vintage African Senufo Peoples Kpele / Kpeili Mask
Vintage African Senufo Peoples Kpele / Kpeili Mask
Vintage African Senufo Peoples Kpele / Kpeili Mask
Vintage African Senufo Peoples Kpele / Kpeili Mask
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Vintage African Senufo Peoples Kpele / Kpeili Mask

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£180.00
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Ivory Coast, dark patinated carved wood, used for planting and harvest ceremonies.

In good condition with a nice patina, likely dating from around the middle of the last century.


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"It is a delicately carved mask combining both human and animal features. Although it was always owned
and worn by a man, Kpelie represented the concept of feminine beauty and fertility. The unique features
which characterize the Kpelie mask include elongated flanges radiating from the bottom part of the mask,
which are a reference to the hornbill bird. The horns on the mask refer to the ram, an important sacrificial
animal. The nodules on the forehead represent palm nuts as well as vulvas; they are flanked by
cicatrization marks that symbolize the twins born to the primordial couple. The Kpelie mask was used at
initiation in the societies for boys, adolescents, and adults, at funeral rituals designed to lead the spirit into
the land of the dead, and at harvest festivals to thank the ancestors for a good crop.

Kpelie- whether in carved wood or cast bronze copper alloy-- are usually oval in shape with arched
crescent shaped eyebrows over narrow slit eyes. The small mouth opens below a slender nose.
Scarification marks add to presentation of what is considered beautiful to the Senufo. On either side of the
temples are semicircular and rectangular shapes that represent the stylized coiffure worn by Senufo
mothers; the center shapes at the side representing ears. Animal horns-- bull, ram or antelope-- represent
male attributes of the masquerade. There are often two appendages on either side of the chin, "legs" that
connect the spirit to the earth. Most important are the figures on the head, which represent an ancestor
closely connected with the society's origin. The figures worn depend on the caste group to which the
individuals belong. However, much of the original significance of these emblems is no longer valid. Wassing
has provided the following meanings: a comb, the symbol of agriculture, a bird- especially the hornbill--
linked with the smiths, a bundle of palm nuts, symbol of wood carvers, and small human figures connected
with merchants. The hornbill--one of the first creatures on earth-- is an important symbol for the Senufo
and appears on many of their carvings.

Other styles of Kpelie exist in other region of Cote d’Ivoire. Along with the facemask, components of the
masquerade include things held (an iron staff or horsetail dance whisk), the instrumental accompaniment,
the lyrics sung, and the costume. The costume consists of a collar or cloak make of long fibers, a knotted
robe decorated with black lozenge shapes (a diamond shape symbolic of the cycle of human life), and a
bunch of red fibers." - Africa Art of a Continent