Senofu Kpelie Mask



20th century
Senofu Peoples, Ivory Coast 
Wood, pigment,
12 x 7 in.
Extended Loan Bernald Family Collection

The kpelie face mask is used in ancestor (kpelie) rituals by the Poro, or Lo, secret sociey of the Senofu peoples. Although mainly worn by men, the kpelie represents female perfection and is used to depict the great mother, the ancestor of all and the giver of life, according to Poro philosophy. The lateral projections on the upper part of this mask represent the horns of a ram, a sacrificial animal, while the rectangular projections on the lower part refer to the stylized hair arrangements of Senofu mothers. Kpelie were used not only in initiation rituals, but also in agricultural ceremonies and funerary rites.