About This Artwork

Senufo
Côte d'Ivoire

Mask (Kponyungo), Mid-19th/mid-20th century

Wood and applied color
27.9 x 27.3 x 102.9 cm (11 x 10 3/4 x 40 1/2 in.)

African and Amerindian Art Purchase Fund, 1963.842

Senufo age-grade associations, such as Poro, serve many important functions: interacting with supernatural forces, honoring ancestors, educating young people, and regulating community politics. At funerals male Poro members—wearing kponyungo masks and baggy, mud-dyed costumes—portray powerful spirits escorting the deceased to the other world, thus protecting the community from supernatural danger. The prominent features of this mask include the eyes, large mouth, and ferocious teeth of a crocodile; the snout of a hyena; the twisted horns of a ram; and the slender, arcing horns of an antelope.

— Permanent collection label

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

New York, N.Y., The Museum of Primitive Art, Senufo Sculpture from West Africa, Feb. 20-May 5, 1963, cat. 34; traveled to the Art Institute of Chicago, July 12-Aug. 11, 1963; the Baltimore Museum of Art, Sep. 17-Oct. 27, 1963.

Flint, Mich., Flint Institute of Arts, The Art of Black Africa, Feb. 8-April 5, 1970, cat. 62

Portland, Maine, Portland Museum of Art, Tribal Art of West Africa, Sep. 16–Oct. 31, 1971, cat. 20.

Art Institute of Chicago, Spiritual Expressions: Art for Private Contemplation and Public Celebration, Nov. 22, 1995-June 16, 1996.

Knoxville, Tenn., Frank H. McClung Museum, The World Moves, We Follow: Celebrating African Art, Jan. 10–May 18, 2003, cat. 31.

Art Institute of Chicago, For Hearth and Altar: African Ceramics from the Keith Achepohl Collection, Dec. 3, 2005–Feb. 20, 2006, cat. 27.

Cleveland Museum of Art, Senufo: Dynamics of Art and Identity in West Africa, Feb. 22–May 31, 2015, cat. 60; traveled to Saint Louis Art Museum, June 28–Sept. 27, 2015; Montpellier, France, Musée Fabre, Nov. 28, 2015–March 6, 2016 (Cleveland and Saint Louis only).

Publication History

Museum of Primitive Art, Senufo Sculpture from West Africa (The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1963), cat. 34.

Allen Wardwell, Primitive Art in the Collections of the Art Institute of Chicago (Art Institute of Chicago, 1965), fig. 65 (ill.)

The Art of Black Africa, exh. cat. (Flint Institute of Arts Exhibition, 1970), cat. 62 (ill.).

Portland Museum of Art, Tribal Art of West Africa, exh. cat. (Portland Museum of Art, 1971), pl. 20.

Frank Willet, African Art: An Introduction (New York and Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1971; repr. Thames and Hudson, 1993), p. 150, fig. 139.

Warren M. Robbins and Nancy Ingram Nooter, African Art in American Collections (Washington and London: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1989), p. 117, fig. 164 (ill.).

Kathleen Bickford Berzock, “Art of the Western Sudan; African Art at the Art Institute of Chicago,” The Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies 23, 2 (1997), pp. 117-118, fig. 10.

William J. Dewey, The World Moves, We Follow: Celebrating African Art, exh. cat. (Knoxville, Tenn.: Frank H. McClung Museum, University of Tennessee, 2003), p. 33, pl. 31.

Susan Elizabeth Gagliardi, Senufo: Dynamics of Art and Identity in West Africa (The Cleveland Museum of Art and 5 Continents Press, 2015), p. 94.

Ownership History

Henri and Hélène Kamer, New York, N.Y., by 1963; sold to the Art Institute, 1963.




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