Madou Coulibaly, ca. *1940 in Nâdal, +2014 in Korhogo

Madou Coulibaly moved from his home village Nâdal to Korhogo, where he died in his 70ies in 2014. Nâdal is a small village next to M'buengué. Madou's children say, that he carved as a Koulé more statues than masks.


The shown Kpelié mask is an example of carvers of the second generation. These carvers were born between 1930 and 1950, they learned from the old ones (the first generation), who established the characteristic Senufo style. Their children, the third generation now live in large cities like Abidjan or emigrate to other countries. Rarely they stay in their home village, learn from their father or work as a Koulé.


In case of Madou, there is already this change of place and circumstance in his lifetime. He moved from Nâdal to Korhogo, where he worked as a Koulé for ritus as well as for the so-called Airport-art market.


His mask is an example, how an object may gets treated before getting sold. Traces of usage are always a good sign for an authentic piece. The back of this Kpelié does show a lot of abrasion...but...not caused by wear. The rubbing was made by sand paper. The wood shows a scratchy surface where marks left that tend into directions. In comparison in this archive there is a Kpelié mask of Bakari Coulibaly that shows abrasion on the same areas of the mask. But these traces are polished and even, caused by fabric that was fixed to the mask and the skin of the dancer (it is not to see on the images, but it is obvious when both masks are side by side).


In can be the case, that authentic masks get treated with sand paper or certain leaves to take the black lye of, that is sometimes done because of ritual reasons, to take away the power of an object. But in this case, the traces are made to make the mask look used. It can not be clarified if this Kpelié was in used in ritus or made just for the Airport-art market, second is more to assumpt.

No matter of this treatment, which is a manipulation for sure and not correct, Madou Coulibaly did a precise craftmanship that goes in the tradition of carvers of his generation. The mask has no phantasy elements or details that do not follow the tradition. Carving is the base of a Koulé's existence like every other profession. They make their living by carving. Madou Coulibaly moved from Nâdal to Korhogo where he got better jobs from art dealers as well as from diviners.

Kpelié mask, carved by Madou Coulibaly, Koulé. Born around 1940 in Nâdal, died 2014 in Korhogo, Ivory Coast. Airport-art.


31,5 x  14,5 cm x 9,0 cm, wood.



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