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Rhythm Pounder in the Shape of a Male Figure


Artwork Details

Rhythm Pounder in the Shape of a Male Figure
carved wood
46 5/8 in x 6 11/16 in x 7 1/16 in (118.5 cm x 17 cm x 18 cm);46 5/8 in x 6 11/16 in x 7 1/16 in (118.5 cm x 17 cm x 18 cm)
Museum Purchase assisted by the Friends of the Museum of Art


Standing figures are generically termed MADEBILI (pl. MADEBELE) meaning "little spirit" or "bush spirit." However, such figures may represent ancestors. They typically have a thick base and arms curving away from the torso, allowing one to lift the sculpture. In the southern regions of Senufoland, these figures are pounded on the earth around the house of the deceased during the funeral ceremony for a male or female member of a Poro secret society. These figures, popularly called "rhythm pounders," induce the spirit of the deceased to leave this world for the ancestral one.
This sculpture depicts the male component of the primordial couple in Senufo creation mythology. Such sculpted figures are always used in pairs; as a couple they represent the ideal social unit—adult, initiated persons at a high level of Poro society. The figures, when pounded on the ground, provide rhythm accompaniment to songs performed during funerals of deceased Senufo elders and to boys’ puberty rites ceremonies. Poro is the sociopolitical and educational institution for men that transcends kinship lines and household ties.

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