By Monica Demott
(formerly University of Iowa)

Côte d’Ivoire; Senufo artist

Kpeli-yëhë or Kodöli-yëhë (face mask)


H. 34.9 cm (14")

University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art, The Stanley Collection of African Art, X1986.579

The funeral serves to separate the corpse from its spirit, or life-force, nyui, which is believed to live on after death, and to guide the spirit to the village of the dead where it can be reborn as an ancestral spirit.  If the funeral procedures are not carried out appropriately, a separation of the body and spirit will not take place, and the spirit will remain in the village and bring misfortune to its descendants.  With the deceased's successful transition to the village of the dead and rebirth as an ancestor, the village gains an advocate in the spiritual world.  This Senufo mask represents the female element in contrast to kponyungo (male helmet masks) in funeral performances involving Senufo blacksmiths. These are not intended to be naturalistic portraits, but the delicate details and the skill of the dancer are intended to express Senufo ideals of female beauty.