Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS

Selected Works|Meet Sister Wendy|About the Series|The Museums|Site Map
Sister Wendy's American Collection
Selected Works





Ceremonial Drum
The Art Institute of Chicago
Senufo people; African, Ivory Coast
1930-1950
Wood, hide, and applied color
48 3/8 x 19 3/8 in. (122.9 x 49.2 cm)
Robert J. Hall, Herbert R. Molner Discretionary, Curator's Discretionary, and the Africa, Oceania, and the Americas Purchase Funds, Arnold Crane, Mrs. Leonard Florsheim, O. Renard Goltra, Holly and David Ross, Africa, Oceania, and the Americas Acquisitions, Ada Turnbull Hertle, Marion and Samuel Klasstorner Endowments, through prior gifts of various donors.
Acquired in 1990


Cote d'Ivoire, Senufo People, Ceremonial Drum (Pinge), 1930/50 Wood, hide, applied color, 122.9 x 49.2 cm, Robert J. Hall, Herbert R. Molner Discretionary, Curator's Discretionary, and Departmental Purchase funds; Arnold Crane, Mrs. Leonard Florsheim, O. Renard Goltra, Holly and David Ross, Departmental Acquisitions, Ada Turnbull Hertle, Marion and Samuel Klasstorner endowments; through prior gifts of various donors, 1990.137, digital file, © The Art Institute of Chicago. All Rights Reserved.



The Senufo people number between 800,000 and one million and live in small villages throughout Mali and Ivory Coast. This agricultural society places a very high value on art and aesthetics: Artisans and artists belong to a special caste, living apart from the farmers. Renowned worldwide as woodworkers and mask makers, Senufo artisans typically use strong abstract shapes to portray people and animals on sacred objects.

Although all Senufo artisans are male, and villages are ruled by male elders, inheritance -- including the right to be an artisan -- is determined through the mother's lineage. Women are regarded as preservers of life with a special connection to the supernatural. This drum would have been used to summon spirits, played at ceremonial occasions such as funerals or memorials, and also at initiation ceremonies for young men in the tribe as they passed into adulthood. The images on this drum, including a warrior on a horse, symbolize war, and therefore the male world. But significantly, the drum is supported by a seated female, an indication of her role of dignity, strength, and power.

Though Senufo art is created primarily for ritual use, its aesthetic has been appreciated far beyond the West African villages where it originated. Its geometric design, for instance, is thought to have influenced Cubism, a technique of modern art practiced by Picasso and others in the early 1900s.


The ceremonial drum was acquired by the Art Institute of Chicago in 1990 for its African and Amerindian Art collection.


American Gothic | Ceremonial Drum | City Landscape | The Hours of Queen Isabella the Catholic
Stag at Sharkey's | Still Life with Two Lemons | An Exiled Emperor on Okinoshima
Maison Maria with a View of Château Noir | Standing Bodhisattva | Mother About to Wash Her Sleepy Child
Netsuke: Baku, Monster Who Eats Nightmares | Ocean Park Series #49 | Bis Poles | Royal Statuary of Hatshepsut
Tughra of Suleyman the Magnificent | The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit | Grand Piano | Mimbres Bowl

Selected Works | Meet Sister Wendy | About the Series | The Museums | Site Map
WGBH | PBS | ©


Selected Works Menu Page Larger version (JPG) Detail viewer (Flash)