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Kulebele/Senufo (Côte d’Ivoire and Mali)

Oracle figure (Kafigelejo)

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Object Details

Culture

Kulebele/Senufo (Côte d’Ivoire and Mali)

Medium

Wood, cloth, feathers, pigment, and encrustation

Dimensions

37 x 10 x 4 inches (94 x 25.4 x 10.2 cm)

Credit Line

Gift of Mr. Leonard S. Barton

Object
Number

93.051.003

BRIEF DESCRIPTIONKafigelejo is a deity whose name means “he who speaks the truth.” As an oracle (…)

BRIEF DESCRIPTIONKafigelejo is a deity whose name means “he who speaks the truth.” As an oracle figure, this object embodies judicial and punitive powers, which are controlled by the carver of the object.WHERE WAS IT MADE?The Senufo live in West Africa, primarily in Mali and the Ivory Coast.The map attached to this record shows the areas (indicated in green) where the Senufo language is spoken.HOW WAS IT MADE?This was made by a Kulebele wood carver. Kulebele is the name of a subgroup of Senufo artisans. After the figure was hand carved from a single piece of wood, it was covered with fabric, feathers, and metal.HOW WAS IT USED?Kulebele wood carvers have long enjoyed exclusive rights to carve in their communities. In addition to their rights of production, the carvers have the ability to control the judicial and punitive powers embodied in the oracle, Kafigelejo (“he who speaks the truth”).Kafigelejo divination is used to uncover the truth, primarily with regard to concerns of marital and sexual propriety. The social elite, who maintain their status through marriage, are most invested in the success of the divination process. Western anthropologists and collectors have traditionally referred to power figures such as the kafigelejo as “fetishes.” However, fetishism, the belief that objects contain intrinsic powers, is common in most religions. Nevertheless, the term was applied most frequently to objects collected in West Africa. Contemporary scholars have discarded the term, believing it to be inherently pejorative. WHY DOES IT LOOK LIKE THIS?Notice the stiff quality of the fabric. This is caused by a buildup of sacrificial materials poured over the figure in ritual acts. These encrustations spiritually and physically sustain the figure’s body. The significance of these materials remains secret

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