Standing female figure (rhythm pounder)

Senufo peoples
19th–20th century
more object details

General Description

This tall female figure with short legs and feet sunk into a heavy cylindrical base is adorned with incised symbolic marks on her chest. Clusters of snail shells, cowrie shells, and red abrus seeds originally adorned her coiffure, upper arms, and abdomen. She represents an ideal adult female—someone who was married, a mother, and who was initiated into the women-only Sandogo society.

Pairs of rhythm pounders are used in funerary rituals that initiate male elders into the society of ancestral spirits. At the conclusion of the ritual, the corpse is carried to the cemetery. Each man carries a figure by its arms, neck, or shoulders. They swing the figures from side to side and periodically strike them against the ground in time with the music of the funeral orchestra, hence the popular name “rhythm pounder.” This action encourages the ancestral spirits to continue to participate in the funeral rites.

Adapted from

  • Roslyn A. Walker, Label text, Arts of Africa, 2015.

Related Multimedia

Collections smARTphone video; Roz Walker discusses Standing female figure (rhythm pounder) Cote d’Ivoire, Sikasso district, Senufo peoples (DMA collection 1974.SC.15)
Learn about the Senufo peoples.