The Child of Poro

June 17, 2012 § Leave a comment

This object is in the African Collection of the Metropolitan Museum, New York.  It is what is called a rhythm pounder. Created by a craftsmen/artist, of the Senufo people.  The Senufo are from the Ivory Coast primarily.  Such objects are tools for a village closed society called Poro. One important responsibility of the Poro is the initiation of young people into adulthood. Another is the burial of members of the Poro society.  Most Africa wood sculpture is carved from a single piece of wood. In this case the lower part of the object is left close to it’s natural state, which is common for this sort of object.  It adds weight to the objects which is held by the arms and swung, from side to side.  It is also tapped on the ground.  This ground tapping or pounding is thought to get the attention of the ancestors, inviting them to attend important village rituals.  When a Poro member dies the bounders are brought to the grave site. At least one in placed in the grave with the dead for a time. It is then removed. Pounders are used to tap down the earth above the grave.

These objects are also called  “Children of Poro”

I love not only the hand of the artist here, but the hand of time so to speak.  It was a beautiful object from the start. The shape of the head, the cresting headdress, the long face the small mouth the large eyes.  Then there is time and accident that has left parts missing, surfaces smoothed and worn down to soft shapes, exposure of the natural aging wood and it soft brown color. All of this is now part of its aesthetic power and its quiet, and almost sad beauty.


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