Senufo oddities: The miniature Kpelié

When visiting Helen Krieg, daughter of Karl-Heinz Krieg, in summer 2012, I came across a box with little things in it. Like a lion made of bronze with a grasshopper on his back (?), pieces of jewelry and other undefined, strange but interesting objects. On antique markets these boxes are like a magnet to me, they always catch my attention.

So in this "Sammelsurium" I also discovered a small rudimentary carved Kpelié mask. Despite all that, the mask looked raw and not pretty. I liked it immediately, so I bought it.

Some weeks later, Helen got back to me, informing that she found this tiny mask in the profound documantation of the Karl-Heinz Krieg Collection, saying, that this mask was made by Karnigi Coulibaly, a Fono who died 1969 in the age of 64 in Poundiou, Ivory Coast. Karnigi is known for his very elegant statues, so this mask is kind of the complete opposite of what he is able to carve. In an interview Karl-Heinz Krieg held in 1967 Karnigi described this tiny mask as a children's Kpelié he made. Little children are an active part in a ceremony, where everyone in the village could see them dancing. This mask has no fixing holes, so it was hold in the hand while dancing.

In literature or in catalogues you often can read, that these small Kpelié are so-called "passport masks". But the Senufo don't have that kind of miniature mask, representing a large mask. These masks are not fetish objetcs for a diviner or even a toy for a children. They are part of a public ceremony and have the same power and the same importance of a classic Kpelié mask danced by an adult man.

So when you have or come along a quirky little Kpelié, the chance is high, that you found an authentic Kpelié.






Read more about children's mask in a former blog article: Genres of the Kpelié: Kid's masks.

Kpelié mask for children, carved by Fono Karnigi Coulibaly, Fodonon. Time of creation 1967. Former Karl-Heinz Krieg Collection.

14,0 x 7,5 x 6,0 cm, wood.



Wenn Brauch gebrauch beeinflusst, Markus Ehrhard, page 90 - 91.


Copyright content and images by Markus Ehrhard