African Art
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Rhythm Pounder in the Shape of a Female Figure (Doogele or Poro Piibele)

late 19th–early 20th century

Wood

40 15/16 x 8 7/8 x 5 7/8 in. (104 x 22.5 x 15 cm)
Charles B. Benenson, B.A. 1933, Collection
2006.51.60
This figure reflects self-control and containment, ideal behaviors and attributes of inner beauty rather than physical appearance. Paired female and male rhythm pounders were principally used during funerals. As the corpse was carried to the burial ground, elders would pound on the ground with the figures, ritually purifying the pathway for the deceased and calling ancestral spirits. Paired figures are emblems of marriage but may represent twins or primordial founding ancestors. Rhythm pounders are owned by a small subgroup of artisans, the Celibele, who make a living as rope makers and tanners.
Geography: 
Country Ivory Coast
Country Burkina Faso
Country Mali
Culture: 
Senufo, Kulibele subgroup
Period: 
19th–20th century
Classification: 
Sculpture
Status: 
On view
Bibliography: 

Sotheby’s, London, African, Oceanic, and Pre-Columbian Art from the Pinto Collection, sale cat. (May 9, 1977), 93, lot 134, front ill., ill.

Susan Vogel, African Sculpture: The Shape of Surprise, exh. cat. (Greenvale, N.Y.: C. W. Post Gallery, 1980), 12, no. 19, ill.

Susan Vogel and Jerry L. Thompson, Closeup: Lessons in the Art of Seeing African Sculpture from an American Collection and the Horstmann Collection, exh. cat. (New York: The Center for African Art, 1990), 135, fig. 62.

Till Förster, “Smoothing the Way of the Dead: A Senufo Rhythm Pounder,” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2005): 54, ill.

“Acquisitions, July 1, 2005–June 30, 2006,” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2006): 222.

Art for Yale: Collecting for a New Century, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2007), 175, 381, pl. 158.

Frederick John Lamp, Accumulating Histories: African Art from the Charles B. Benenson Collection at the Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2012), 58, 107, ill.

Susan Elizabeth Gagliardi and Constantijn Petridis, Senufo Unbound: Dynamics of Art and Identity in West Africa, exh. cat. (Milan: 5 Continents Editions, 2014), 138, fig. 86.

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.

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