These three elaborately carved Senufo doors represent a West African woodcarving tradition that is rich in meaning. Although the people of the Senufo culture live in Côte D’Ivoire, Mali, and Burkina Faso, the embellished door-carving traditions are very localized to the Senari dialect region of Côte D’Ivoire.
Cast brass, bronze, or copper weights, popularly known as goldweights, were used in Akan cultures such as the Asante (also known as the Ashante or Ashanti), who live predominantly in what is today the country of Ghana. The weights were used to measure gold dust, which long served as currency in the gold-rich Akan region.
African Textiles Researched by Hillary Kummer, Tana Redman, Lauren Fitzpatrick, and Rachel Johnson Dogon men wear traditional cotton shirts in everyday life, but they are much less intricate, often just left a natural off-white or dyed a simple shade
People of the Senufo culture live primarily in Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, and the southern region of Mali. Traditional Senufo communities continue to practice a political system that emphasizes the social equality of men and women, who alternate rule of the community. Crucial to this political system are the Poro, the men’s secret society, and the Sandogo, the women’s secret society, which are each tasked with socializing and training children for adulthood.
The Kisii and Shona sculptures in this exhibit are usually categorized as African “international art” — 20th century art that draws from Western European forms of art, but that incorporates traditional African motifs, ideas, and themes. This type of art is often very controversial in Africa; proponents argue that African art has throughout history adopted other forms and been influence by other cultures, and that these developments are a natural progression in African art, while opponents claim that international art is simply another form of Western art, and that true African art uses only traditional forms and materials.
The Bamana are traditionally an agricultural people who reside primarily in the country of Mali and the northern part of Côte D’Ivoire. The Bamana have developed six social societies that are responsible for continuing traditional education, initiation and rites of passage, social roles, spiritual protection, and the proper practice of agriculture within their communities. Among the best-known of these societies is the agricultural society known as the Chi Wara association.
African Divination Objects Researched by Lauren Fitzpatrick Among the Yoruba, diviners—those who are in contact with the spirit world and who can divine the future—are male priests of the Ifa cult. These priests conduct rituals to contact
Neck rests and head rests are personal items and status symbols that are widely used in Africa to keep the head and neck lifted up above the sleeping mat. The height, size, and stability of the neck or head rest are carefully and personally designed for the individual owner for maximum comfort. Durability is also an important feature, as the owners will frequently take the neck or head rest on their travels.
Masks in Africa are traditionally used in religious or social events to represent the spirits of ancestors or bush sprits, and/or to help maintain order in the community. Each mask is worn with a costume, usually in a dance performance that is accompanied by percussion or music. During the performances, the dancer immerses himself or herself into the character and is believed to be spiritually replaced by that character; in some cases, the performer is believed to make contact with the ancestors in order to bring fort a message.