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African Art

Champion Cultivator’s staff

late 19th–early 20th century


20 1/2 × 3 × 3 in. (52 × 7.62 × 7.62 cm)
Charles B. Benenson, B.A. 1933, Collection
Staffs awarded to champion cultivators reflect the great importance accorded to farming in Senufo society. They depict a seated girl in her youthful beauty, a symbol of abundance and potential fertility. Annual hoeing competitions celebrated strength, skill, and endurance among young men, and it was a great honor to win. As heroes in the community, the winners were highly respected, and had the opportunity to marry the finest women, and gained the right to elaborate funerals. The staffs were held in trust by the elders for successive champion cultivators in each age group, and they were displayed at the funerals of the champions and of their mothers.
Burkina Faso
or Mali
or Côte d’Ivoire
On view
19th–20th century
Tools and Equipment

Sotheby's, London, April 9, 1984, lot 85; Arcade Gallery, London, June 13, 1984; Charles B. Benenson Collection, Greenwich, Conn, 1984–2004; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.


Sotheby’s, London, Sotheby Parke Bernet and Co: Tribal Art also Tibetan, Nepalese, Indian and South-Eat Asian Art, sale cat. (April 9, 1984), 35, lot 85, ill.

“Acquisitions, July 1, 2005–June 30, 2006,” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2006): 222, 226, ill.

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.