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39

Senufo Oracle Figure, Côte d'Ivoire

Estimate:

10,000 - 15,000 USD

Property from a Private Collection, New York

Senufo Oracle Figure, Côte d'Ivoire

Senufo Oracle Figure, Côte d'Ivoire

Estimate:

10,000 - 15,000 USD

Property from a Private Collection, New York

Senufo Oracle Figure, Côte d'Ivoire


Height: 26 in (66 cm)

Very good condition overall. Some breaks and losses to the feathers, which are dry and somewhat fragile. Wear and some minor losses and abrasions to the fabric covering. Arms are constructed of separate wood sections, as to be expected. Remains of ritually applied material. Has base.


The lot is sold in the condition it is in at the time of sale. The condition report is provided to assist you with assessing the condition of the lot and is for guidance only. Any reference to condition in the condition report for the lot does not amount to a full description of condition. The images of the lot form part of the condition report for the lot provided by Sotheby's. Certain images of the lot provided online may not accurately reflect the actual condition of the lot. In particular, the online images may represent colours and shades which are different to the lot's actual colour and shades. The condition report for the lot may make reference to particular imperfections of the lot but you should note that the lot may have other faults not expressly referred to in the condition report for the lot or shown in the online images of the lot. The condition report may not refer to all faults, restoration, alteration or adaptation because Sotheby's is not a professional conservator or restorer but rather the condition report is a statement of opinion genuinely held by Sotheby's. For that reason, Sotheby's condition report is not an alternative to taking your own professional advice regarding the condition of the lot.

Ludwig Bretschneider, Munich
Ulrich Klever, Sankt Georgen (Traunreut), acquired from the above
Thence by family descent
Sotheby's, New York, November 15, 2002, lot 6, consigned by the above
Private Collection, New York, acquired after the above auction
This ominous figure is a kafigeledjo, a Senufo term which can be roughly translated as "he who speaks the truth". As instruments of divinatory practice, these oracle figures played a central role in rituals also known as kafigeledjo. Hidden from public view, kafigeledjo were physically accessible to only the most learned and senior male elders of the initiatory Poro society and, very occasionally, to female leaders of the Sandogo association. Possessing oracular power, kafigeledjo figures were said to represent "invisible bush spirits" (Alisa LaGamma, Art and Oracle: African Art and Rituals of Divination, New York, 2000, p. 26). Their truth-telling function helped to maintain social order by revealing "misdeeds, false testimony, and culpability" (ibid.).

Aesthetically, this kafigeledjo is at once both representational and abstract. Its fabric-woven form topped with feathers resembles a frenetic human figure, yet the layers of mud and other crusty sacrificial materials shroud the figure in a cloud of secrecy and imbue it with a potent sense of intimidation. This combination of figural and abstract forms is symbolic of the kafigeledjo's spiritual power, which it wields in Senufo communities through the agency of leaders who straddled both the human and the spiritual worlds.