The rhythm pounder (deble) from the Senufo people of the Ivory Coast was once a crucial prop in both
commemorative ancestral rites and in initiations of adolescents to adult society; it was also a benevolent symbol
of fertility and a conduit to the departed.

The few known male and female rhythm pounder pairs are thought to represent the primordial couple, referred to
as 'Pombibele', which means "those who gave birth.

Typically it is female figures are represented and it has been speculated that these single figures are one of a
pair, the location of the other being unknown. According to Anita Glaze (in Barbier, ed. 1993: 44), however, 'not
all funerary sculpture is commissioned as a pair, nor do all relatively large scale processional display figures
necessarily belong to the primordial couple category. A poro society may possess one or more single figures that
were initially commissioned as a result of a member's visionary encounter with spirits in dreams or while alone in
the fields.'

These pounders were traditionally used at funeral ceremonies for Poro society members.  In some areas, they
are actually pounded, at others, they are gathered at the center of the ceremonial grounds.

Sources: Sotheby's, A History of Art in Africa
Senufo Deble or Pombibele figure
35" tall
Acquired from Tim and Bobbi Hamill,
Hamill Gallery of African Art, Boston
Photos: Tim Hamill
(additional photos coming soon)

A beautiful figure in my opinion, I really love the presence and the form.
I was drawn to the wonderful lines of the figure, the detail and placement of the hands and the wonderful profiles of the figure.
If you are in the market for one of these figures, the Hamill Gallery in Boston just added quite a few to their
website. There are some
really nice figures in their offerings in my opinion, a few that are really exceptional
stylistically.

CLICK HERE to go to the Hamill Gallery website to view their figures.
(link will open in a new window)
Below are some examples and information from various auction houses
Sotheby's - New York
African, Oceanic and Pre-Columbian Art
Auction Date : Nov 11, 2004

Lot 58 :  A FINE SENUFO FEMALE RHYTHM POUNDER

Description
déblé, of elegant proportions, the cylindrical base leading to the legs with articulated knees and rounded hips, the elongated
ventral recessed below the navel with pendant breasts framed by muscular shoulders and bent arms with flexed hands resting
on the hips, the stylized face with geometric features and a scooped facial plane and wearing a single-crested coiffure; aged
and varied medium to dark brown surface with incised areas highlighted by red, white and black pigment.

Dimensions
height 52in 132.5cm


Estimate:
$ 50,000 - $ 80,000  
Price Realized:
$ 54,000    


Provenance
PROPERTY FROM THE BAREISS FAMILY COLLECTION

Christie's London, November 8, 1977

Published
Bastin 1984: 110, figure 84
Roy, Kilengi: African Art from the Bareiss Family Collection, 1997: 305, number 202, catalogue of the exhibition, Hannover,
Kestner Gesellschaft, August 30 - October 19, 1997 (see bibliography for additional venues)

Notes
Cf. Gottschalk (2002: 198) for another figure with related geometric facial features.
Sotheby's - New York
African, Oceanic and Pre-Columbian Art
Auction Date : May 14, 2004

Lot 50 :  A FINE AND RARE SENUFO MALE RHYTHM POUNDER

Description
déblé, the columnar base supporting a male figure with parted, muscular legs and subtly articulated knees beneath the slender hips
with rounded buttocks, the gently tapered torso with a central furrow at the back and a protruding navel and muscular pectorals to the
front, the broad rounded shoulders leading to arching, elongated arms with finely carved hands resting on the thighs, the head with
exceptionally sensitively carved features, the full, pursed lips and large almond-shaped eyes bisected by the straight nose, decorated
with incised scarification at the cheeks, and framed by demilune ears and wearing a single-crested coiffure of avian form with a central
tress at the front; fine aged and varied deep brown patina with areas of wear at the arms and neck from age and use within the
culture.

Dimensions
height 50 1/2 in. 128.2cm


Estimate:
$ 90,000 - $ 120,000  
Price Realized:
$ 102,000    


Provenance
PROPERTY FROM AN AMERICAN PRIVATE COLLECTOR

Hélène Leloup, Paris, circa 1971

Notes
Rhythm pounders were used during funerary rites of the important Senufo poro secret society. Within the corpus of Senufo rhythm
pounders most of the known examples of exceptional style and refinement are generally considered to either originate in the northern
Senufo region, near Sikasso or the central region, near Korhogo, in the Ivory Coast.

A few male and female rhythm pounder pairs, thought to represent the primordial couple, are known (see Goldwater 1964 and
Gottschalk 2002 for other examples and discussion). Typically, though, female figures are represented and it has been speculated
that these single figures are one of a pair, the location of the other being unknown. According to Glaze (in Barbier, ed. 1993: 44),
however, 'not all funerary sculpture is commissioned as a pair, nor do all relatively large scale processional display figures necessarily
belong to the primordial couple category. A poro society may possess one or more single figures that were initially commissioned as a
result of a member's visionary encounter with spirits in dreams or while alone in the fields.'

This exceptional male rhythm pounder is extraordinary in two respects--it represents a male figure and appears to have been carved
outside of the two well-known artistic centers, and is possibly the only known example of its type. This male figure conveys a
classicism and refined naturalism which points to the western regional Senufo style as defined by stylistic analyses carried out by
Goldwater (1964) and Maesen (1946; see also Veirman 2001: 285). Goldwater points to a figure collected by Maesen in 1939 at
Dembasso as a prototype of the western style (ibid.: figure 105). Compared to works from the north or the central regions the western
figurative works have a less marked fusion of 'elongation and bulge and the lips are more independent from the chin.' For other works
in the western regional style see also (ibid.: figure 108) for a female maternity figure from the Boundiali region and Sotheby's
Parke-Bernet (1966: lot 113) for a male and female pair formerly in the Rubinstein collection collected in Tingrela (or Tengrela)
relaying a similar combination of naturalism of form paired with distinctive facial characteristics as this male rhythm pounder.
From Sotheby's auction May 15th 2003
MEASUREMENTS
height 19 1/2in. (49.5cm.)

DESCRIPTION
standing on a circular base, the hips encircled by yellow beads, the torso framed by wedge-shaped hands, the heart-shaped facial plane framed by pierced
ears decorated with red beads and wearing a single-crested coiffure, cicatrices on the torso and face; medium brown patina.
The Egon Guenther Family Collection of African Art
Sotheby's
10:15AM and 2 PM, respectively, Nov. 18, 2000
Sales 7556 and 7557

Lot 66, Senufo male deble figure, 43 1/2 inches high

Lot 66 is a 43 ½-inch fine and rare Senufo male deble figure. Deble is a name reserved for the "exclusive se of poro
initiates," according to an quotation in the catalogue from B. Holas in Artibus Asiae, which added that the "arms of
the figures, and the base, are its ‘functional’ parts, since during the commemorative rites, the young initiates, in file,
hold these statues by the arms and pound the earth in slow rhythm." "This act has a double meaning; on the one
hand, the dull sound thus produced purifies the impure earth and renders it fertile and useful to humans; on the
other, it is an appeal to the soul of deceased ancestors, an invitation for them to participate, forcefully, in the
religious ceremony," the quotation continued.

The very stylized statue, a masterwork, has a conservative estimate of $40,000 to $60,000. It sold for $115,750.
Sotheby's Nov 2005 LOT 59

PROPERTY FROM THE RAYMOND E. BRITT FAMILY COLLECTION
A FINE SENUFO RHYTHM POUNDER

Estimate 25,000—35,000 USD
Lot Sold.  Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium:   24,000 USD
MEASUREMENTS
height 51 1/2 in. 130.8cm

DESCRIPTION
déblé, rising from a tall base, the bent legs with pointed knees leading to rounded hips encircled by a carved cloth, the slender torso pointed at
the navel with small breasts beneath muscular shoulders leading to bent arms with pointed elbows and wedge-shaped hands with ridged
bracelets, the neck encircled by a pendant beneath the head with abbreviated features including a T-shaped nose, the single-crested coiffure
terminating in a tall finial; exceptionally softly worn surface with varied medium to light brown patina.

PROVENANCE
Robert Duperrier, Paris, November 1976

CATALOGUE NOTE
Rhythm pounders were used during funerary rites of the important Senufo poro secret society. Within the corpus of Senufo rhythm pounders
most of the known examples of exceptional style and refinement are generally considered to either originate in the northern Senufo region, near
Sikasso or the central region, near Korhogo, in the Ivory Coast.

The few known male and female rhythm pounder pairs are thought to represent the primordial couple (see Goldwater 1964 and Gottschalk 2002
for other examples and discussion). Typically, though, female figures are represented and it has been speculated that these single figures are
one of a pair, the location of the other being unknown. According to Glaze (in Barbier, ed. 1993: 44), however, 'not all funerary sculpture is
commissioned as a pair, nor do all relatively large scale processional display figures necessarily belong to the primordial couple category. A
poro society may possess one or more single figures that were initially commissioned as a result of a member's visionary encounter with spirits
in dreams or while alone in the fields.'

Cf. See Gottschalk (2002:194-195) for a related female figure with similar patina, movement of counter-positioned angles and spare,
abbreviated treatment of the face. See also Goldwater (1964:91) for a related pair, which he identifies as from the Northern region, possibly San.
Sotheby's May 2003, LOT 17

Property from a European Collection
A SUPERB SENUFO FEMALE RHYTHM POUNDER

Estimate 90,000—120,000 USD
Lot Sold.  Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium:   142,400 USD

MEASUREMENTS
height 47 1/2in. 1.21m

DESCRIPTION
the tapering columnar base supporting a figure with parted, slender legs, slightly bent, leading to rounded hips, a pointed abdomen and conical breasts,
framed by arching arms encircled by armlets with wedge-shaped hands resting at the hips, the slightly tilted head with recessed facial plane and straight
mouth, T-shaped nose and heavy-lidded eyes framed by protruding demi-lune ears, and wearing a single-crested coiffure, decorated at the face, hips
and navel with incised linear scarification; exceptionally fine and varied, softly worn patina with areas of red ochre and kaolin.

Provenance:
Collected in the vicinity of Korhogo, Côte d'Ivoire by Simon Escarré, ca. 1940

Published:
Holas 1978: 90

Simon Escarré (1909-1999) was born in France, and went to Africa in 1926 to work for the SCOA (Société Commerciale de l'Ouest Africain). Later he
established his own businesses in the Korhogo region of the Côte d'Ivoire. Through his various companies, he established modern infrastructure for the
region, including schools, hospitals, water and irrigation systems. During this time he made many friends among the Senufo people and established
contacts with African scholars who visited the region such as Emil Storrer and Bohumil Holas.

According to Girard (in Gottschalk 2002: 151-154) this exceptional female figure was carved by Ngolo Pili (ca. 1865-1965), a master carver from the
village of Dyimiténé in the southern region of Korhogo. Only three rhythm pounders by Ngolo Pili are known--the current lot, another collected by Emil
Storrer in the 1950's and later in the David Collection; and a third also formerly in the Escarré collection (ibid.: 166 and 167, left figure only). Each of the
three are similar in scale, with a tilt to the head and a slightly smiling expression. Each wears similar armbands and loin cloths, and is incised with linear
scarfications imbued with red ochre and kaolin at the hips, navel and face. The three figures were used extensively in ceremony based on the signs of
traditional use, such as the softly worn patina at the tops of the arms where they would have been held for pounding, and the wear to the base where the
figure would have hit the ground.  
Sotheby's November 2002, LOT 32

A FINE SENUFO RHYTHM POUNDER

Estimate 15,000—20,000 USD
Lot Sold.  Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium:   8,962 USD

MEASUREMENTS
height 51in. 1.30m

DESCRIPTION
Ivory Coast rising from a cylindrical base, the bent legs and rounded hips supporting an elongated, flared torso with conical breasts, the muscular
shoulders and bent arms bowed out at the sides with wedge-shaped hands resting at the waist, the head with heart-shaped facial plane, pursed lips and
protruding almond-shaped eyes, the single-crested coiffure with an upturned section at the front, areas of incised linear scarification overall; finely adzed
blackened patina.

Provenance: George Stoecklin, Zurich Alfonse Vallejo, Los Angeles 'Although these statues are known under the vague apocryphal name of katyeleo...
the name Deble which is the only true name of the statue, is reserved for the exclusive usage of poro initiates. The arms of the figures, and the base,
are its 'functional' parts, since during the commemorative rites the young initiates, in file, hold these statues by the arms and pound the earth in slow
rhythm. This act has a double meaning; on the one hand, the dull sound thus produced purifies the impure earth and renders it fertile and useful to
humans; on the other, it is an appeal to the soul of the deceased ancestors, an invitation for them to participate, forcefully, in the religious ceremony'
(Holas 1957: 20). See Förster (1988: 72-73) for related rhythm pounders.
Sotheby's Paris, July 2004, LOT 112

STATUE FÉMININE, SÉNUFO, CÔTE D'IVOIRE
[A SENUFO FEMALE FIGURE, IVORY COAST]

Estimate 25,000—30,000 EUR
Lot Sold.  Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium:   32,400 EUR

PROVENANCE
Charles Ratton
Vente Loudmer, 5 décembre 1987, no 104
Ancienne collection Arman, New-York


LITERATURE AND REFERENCES
Reproduite dans B. Gottschalk, 2002, Senoufo, Verlag, Düsseldorf, p. 200.

Reproduite dans Quelques Impressions d'Afrique, Château Notre-Dame des Fleurs, Vence, 1996, p. 166.

CATALOGUE NOTE
Le traitement de la base en cônes inversés, répondant à la puissante stylisation du corps, est à notre
connaissance unique. Elle confirme la liberté offerte à chaque artiste Sénufo d'exprimer son propre talent et de
laisser libre cours à son inspiration personnelle, dans la limite des canons iconographiques imposés par la
tradition.

La taille de cette statue gardienne du poro, son cou de proportion naturaliste et ses bras ne présentant pas une
patine différente du reste du corps indiquent qu'elle avait vraisemblablement un usage statique, conservée dans
l'enceinte de l'enclos initiatique (sinzanga) et exposée lors de cérémonies funéraires ou rituelles (cf. B.
Gottschalk, 2002, p. 28).

The size of this poro guardian statue and its naturally proportioned neck and arms with very little surface
variation indicate that it had a static use and was kept inside the initiation enclosure (sinzange) for display during
funerary or ritual ceremonies (cf. B. Gottschalk, 2002, p. 28).
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