Senufo (Senoufo, Siena, Sienna), Côte dIvoire, Burkina Faso, Mali
Kpelie initiation mask. The Senufo numbering 1,000,000 to 1,500,000 are a farming people. They live in the northern and central regions of the Côte dIvoire, and the southern regions of Mali and Burkina Faso. The Senufo are concentrated in big villages broken up into units of matrilineal lineage descending from a common ancestor. The Senufo produce a rich variety of sculptures, mainly associated with the Poro society, to which adult men belong and which maintains the continuity of religious and historical traditions, especially through the cult of the ancestors. The kpelie masks represent a supernatural spirit living in the invisible realm who responds to the supplications of worshippers. It also represents the ancestor. Such masks have been used by the Lo society, which governed the social life of the tribe. Although the occasions on which it is used may differ, it always represents an ancestor closely connected to the societys origin. The kpelie is said to remind initiates of human imperfection. They have a vital masquerading tradition associated with various male societies, including Poro. Masked dancers performed at each initiation, at harvest festivals to thank the ancestor for a good crop, in the funerary rites, to chase away harmful spirits from the village and to fight sorcerers.