Senufo oddities: The weird bird


Who did not made that experience?

Sometimes you buy a sculpture where the provenance, the age and the clear assignment for a distinctive feature doesn't matter.

Sometimes you buy a sculpture that is completely out of the frame. The proportions are different to the ones you are used to know. The making is different to what you normally admire. And maybe it didn't cost much money, because no one else bought it before. We know enough about statues and masks from books, from exhibitions and trade fairs, and we see a flood of images on social media.

So why do you buy this oddity?

Because It is magic!

It fascinates, pulls you under its spell, triggers emotions in you. You have the unexplainable urge that you want to own it. Not in general, but every now and then, one finds an object that does not fit the requirements at all: An oddity.

From 2010 to 2012 I visited Karl-Heinz Krieg many times in his house next to Hamburg. Every time I saw something new in his show rooms. And every time I saw a little humble bird standing next to Lobi statues on a shelve. By far not pretty, completely out of shape, out of any proportion and, sorry to say, out of any esthetics. And € 100 for 10 cm was a bit expensive in my opinion.

At my last visit, I was already in my car and about to leave, I turned to Karl-Heinz and said, that I have the urge to buy the weird little bird. He knew immediately which one I was talking about. He told me, that he observed that I always sneaked around that sculpture like a panther around his victim.

Karl-Heinz Krieg bought this sculpture in 1965 and confirmed, that this bird is very old, from before 1900. It is different to the classic Calao bird and it has nothing in common with the farmer's birds, another Senufo sculpture on its own. It can't be a childrens toy or puppet. So we persumed, that this bird is a custom made object for a diviner.

At Senufo culture, the Calao bird is of main importance. He belongs to group of protozoans with the chameleon, the turtle and the python. The Calao does pic on the forehead to give wisdom. Sometimes he is placed on the top of a Kpelié mask, pecking the forehead. All Kpelié masks have a scar on that place, caused by the Calao bird. He is omniscient and all-knowing. So his appearance is sublime, powerful and elegant. All features this little bird certainly does not have.

His bulky feet are strong, so it can stand on its own. The body has no anatomy, is undefined and deconstructed. The hatching on the back represent wings with feathers and feathers stand up right at the rump.


Till today I can not figure out, what exactly it was made for. Maybe it is just an artit's temper, I don't know. And I don't mind to know, because everytime I see it, I always start thinking, why it catches my attention and why it has that magic.


Senufo bird (chicken?). Time of creation before 1900. Collected by Karl-Heinz Krieg in 1965.

10,0 x 8,0 x 6,5 cm, wood.



Wenn Brauch Gebrauch beeinflusst, Markus Ehrhard, page 88 - 89.



Content and images by Markus Ehrhard