Gahariga (Hornbill Figure)

By: Adenike Cosgrove Tagged:

The social, economic and spiritual lives of Senufo men are governed by an overarching initiation society known as Poro. A Senufo man must pass through all stages of the initiation society to be considered a rounded man with full insight into ancestral teachings and traditions. Each vocational group (including farmers, traders and artists) has its own Poro group through which they must graduate before becoming a member of the Senufo community.

Traditional sculpture of figures and masks play an important role in the Poro society. An example is the gabariga (also called kporopyan, porpianong; meaning 'mother of the child of Poro', kasingele; meaning 'the first ancestor', or sejen; meaning 'bird') hornbill figure believed to represent the Senufo primordial ancestors—Koulotiolo, creator of the world, and Katieleo, the mother of the village.

An emblem of the authority and wisdom of elders within Senufo communities, gabaringa hornbill figures are kept in the forests near where young boys are initiated, to protect them from malicious forces. They are also carried on the heads of initiates during Poro ceremonies.

Distinguishing Features

  • Very rare
  • Monumental scale—can be up to six feet in height
  • Stylised hornbill figure
  • Sweeping arc to back
  • Phallic beak
  • Beak touching belly of figure
  • Swollen, rounded belly
  • Rectangular, outstretched wings
  • Geometric designs or images of snakes, lizards, other animals, or human figures painted or incised onto wings
  • Some examples have holes in the wings (through which cords are passed to steady the bird when carried)
  • Hollowed base

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