Ceremonial Drum (Pinge)

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Côte d'Ivoire

Ceremonial Drum (Pinge), 1930/50

Wood, hide, and applied color
122.9 x 49.2 cm (48 3/8 x 19 3/8 in.)
Robert J. Hall, Herbert R. Molner Discretionary, Curator's Discretionary, and African and Amerindian Art Purchase funds; Arnold Crane, Mrs. Leonard Florsheim, O. Renard Goltra, Holly and David Ross, Departmental Acquisitions, Ada Turnbull Hertle, and Marion and Samuel Klasstorner endowments; through prior gifts of various donors, 1990.137

This elaborate ceremonial drum takes the form of a seated woman gracefully balancing a load on her head. The figure’s stylized features are characteristic of Senufo figural art, in particular that of the hereditary Kulebele woodcarvers, a group of artists who have historically traveled widely to work on location for patrons who commission their work. The strong and dignified female figure that holds this drum aloft evokes the Senufo ideal of women as family founders and spiritual mediators and guardians. Her composed expression projects a sense of inner calm that belies the great weight she carries, while her seated pose reflects a position of honor within the community. The drum’s hide-covered resonating chamber is embellished with motifs that allude to conflict and competition, including warriors, a snake devouring a fish, and a crocodile biting into the decorative edge of the drum itself. These motifs emphasize the importance of knowledge and power in a world of competing spiritual and temporal forces. In some Senufo communities, men play ceremonial drums during agricultural competitions or initiation rituals. Women may also play them during commemorative funerals for women of status.

— Entry, Essential Guide, 2009, p. 17.

This sculpture depicting a woman gracefully balancing a drum on her head also functions as a drum. Played by women, drums like this provide rhythmic percussion and confirm the contributions of women to Senufo society through their thought-provoking sculptural forms. The female figure balances the load on her head with powerful, upraised arms, a rigidly arched back, and a strong neck. Scarification marks, bracelets, and carefully coiffed hair further identify her as a woman of status. The image of the female figure carries profound importance for the matrilineal Senufo of Ivory Coast and Burkino Faso. Women are the founders of families, and they play significant roles in influential initiation associations such as Sandogo and Tyekpa.

— Descriptive text