Senufo People

Nov 23rd 2019

Senufo, also spelled Senoufo , a group of closely related peoples of northern Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) and southeastern Mali. They speak at least four distinct languages (Palaka, Dyimini, and Senari in Côte d’Ivoire and Suppire in Mali), which belong to the Gur branch of the Niger-Congo language family. Senufo peoples are agricultural, their major crops including corn (maize) and millet. Their farms cluster around villages of small mud-brick houses, thatched in the south but with flat roofs in the drier north.

The Senufo are outstanding musicians, using marimbas, tuned iron gongs, and a variety of drums, horns, and flutes. They are also internationally famous carvers of wood sculpture, mainly masks and figures.

Beds are made throughout Africa, mainly for resting during the day (daybeds). In most areas, they are carved out of a single piece of wood. The complexity of the designs varies enormously. In some instances, as with the Bamileke in Cameroon, they may have complex interlocking motifs carved all the way along the sides. The Senufo have amongst the most beautiful but simplest beds. They consist of a completely flat & minimally adorned surface and a sloping headrest – sometimes conceived in the form of a turtle – as well as heavy tapering legs. While some are quite small, most are over 2m long, 1m wide and 1m high. The simplicity of the form enhances the monolithic sculptural quality of these functional works of art.

The seat is the most important piece of furniture in Africa, usually taking the form of a stool or a chair. It serves as a social insignia because each person is entitled to a type of seat which corresponds to their social rank. It was said that a man was judged and respected according to the kind of stool he had. The stool is a strictly personal item and is said to be the seat of the owner's soul. Stools can be bought by anyone, as long as the model is appropriate to the person's social status. Most stools are carved out of a single piece of wood. These stools are used by Senufo women when they do their washing.