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 pombia (also called poro pia, nedo, doogele; pl. poro piibele, pombibele, ndble; meaning 'child of poro' or 'those who give birth') figure said to represent the ideal Senufo woman and man—the primordial ancestors. Pombia 'rhythm-pounder' figures are used to commemorate recently deceased Poro elders during their funerals, and to ensure their safe passage into the land of ancestors.
During funeral processions, male and female pombia figures are carried by the upper arms, swung from side to side and pounded on the ground regularly. This is to drive away evil spirits thus creating a smooth and safe passage for the deceased's spirit into the land of ancestors. The initiates carrying the figures then circle the elder's body three times (symbolising the three stages of Poro initiation).
When not in used, pombia figures are stored in a sacred grove (sinzanga) located outside of the village.
NOTE: Debele, short for madebele (meaning 'bush spirits'), has been used as a class name for both the rhythm-pounders and display-sculpture subtypes.
NOTE: Figures held by neck or shoulders when not being swung.
Sub-type variations (Male pombia):
Sub-type variations (Female pombia):