The myth of the burning blades

Tugubele Senufo Gue Snoufo burning blades Banfora
Tugubele carved with burning blades by a Numu, Burkina Faso

Upfront, there is no myth about the burning blades, it is the truth, that the Numu carve their objects with glowing knifes. The Numu are the smithers of the G'ué (also Gouin or Guin), a subgroup of the Senufo living around the City of Banfora in Burkina Faso.

The legend says, that they own the fire and metal. The Numu can be compared with the Fono, the Senufo smithers working with wood, from Ivory Coast. Not much is known about the G'ué as of the Numu in particular, they are not researched as much as the Senufo. That might be one reason, why there is a myth about their craft.

As smithers they create their blades and knifes themself. Contrary to the Fono, they carve wood with hot glowing blades. To get an even surface they place the carved statue over fire and sand with strong leaves the surface to a smooth and unruffeld top. Another sign of their technique is that their objects smell burned. In detail you can see that the edges of a cut, like carving a mouth, scars or eyes, are carbonized. It is not a myth, it just that statues in this unique technique are very rare.


Senufo Senoufo Tugubele couple from Burkina Faso Numu
Tugubele couple, carved by a Numu from Sienra, Burkina Faso

Tugubele couple, carved by  a Numu from Sienre, Burkina Faso. Former Karl-Heinz Krieg Collection.

Man: 35,0 x 10,0 x 7,5 cm, wood.

Woman: 36,0 x 10,5 x 8,0 cm, wood.



- Wenn Brauch Gebrauch beeinflusst, Markus Ehrhard, pages 52 - 55.


Copyright content and images by Markus Ehrhard

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