The Jumbol - a ceremonial stick

Image of Zana Coulibaly courtesy of Souleymane Arachi, Korhogo.
Image of Zana Coulibaly courtesy of Souleymane Arachi, Korhogo.

Similar to a scepter the dancer of the Kpelié mask does hold a stick in one of his hands and leads the ceremony with it. Karl-Heinz Krieg named this stick "Kumbol", and the Kufulo (or Koufouloh), a sub-group of the Senufo living south of Korhogo, name it "Jumbol".


There is always a sitting female Tugubele statue on a semi circle shaped base that is placed on top of the stick. The lenght of this ceremonial accessory varies from short version of about 20 cm up to 60 cm long sticks. They can be carved in wood, but also casted in shiny brass.


There are sticks known, where the Tugubele is detachable and functions as a single figure. But in general the spirit is carved on a half circle form in one piece with the stick. For the diviner, who is the keeper of the Jumbol, this Tugubele is his master. That is one other explanation, that the statue can be removed and can function as diviners tool itself.


Karl-Heinz Krieg describes in his book "Kunst und Religion bei den Gbato-Senufo, Elfenbeinküste" on page 35 that these sticks are also used as a trophy stick in the secret society of the Poro, or on page 41 that these sticks can be borrowed to neighboured Poro societies. On page 138 he defines the name Kumbol as a dancing stick for Sohole,  the initiation phase of young men between 20 and 27 years old, at the Wolo dance.


The Jumbol is not to be confused with the nearly same looking Tefalapica, a trophy stick for a farmer who did win a chopping competition in working the fields. The Tefalapica has a minimum lengh of 100 cm up to 150 cm, some decorations such as carved rings or rills are on the stick in additon, and always a female Tugubele on top. (Afrika Begegnung, Artur Elmer, page 50 - 52). Robert Goldwater describes in his book "Senufo - Sculpture from west africa" on images 128-136 as a stick with the name "daleu".


The shown Jumbol was carved by Zana (Zanafagua) Coulibaly, a Koulé who lived in Kanoroba. Born in 1940, Zana died 2019 in Natal. He learned carving from his father and he left a huge repertoire of objects, such as masks, statues, tools and furniture.


In his case it is difficult to determine the date of origine. Zana had no characteristic handwriting like Ziehouo Coulibaly from Korhogo, who is in the same generation of Senufo carvers. But Zana's style is very elegant.


His Jumbol, made before 2000, is a very beautifully carved ceremonial object. It fullfills all the features of style and elegance in sense of Senufo esthetics.


The photo of Zana Coulibaly was made by Souleymane Arachi in April 2015 in Kanoroba, Ivory Coast. On that image he holds, beside a Tugubele statue, a walking stick, he made for himself.




















Content by Markus Ehrhard, 09.02.2021


Image of Zana Coulibaly courtesy of Souleymane Arachi, Korhogo.

Senufo oddities: The whistle

Quite often, objects of daily use receive a design at the Senufo culture. We know beer spoons or the heddle pulleys that have little Tugubele statues or the Calao bird featured. The Senufo love elegance, so beside the fact, that these features have a spiritual meaning of protection or wisdom, the carvers intention is to create a beautiful object with an own esthetic.

At first view, I thought to hold a humble paint brush in my hand. Having a closer look, this light stick turned out to be a whistle. A female Tugubele statue is carved on top. Her legs are used as free space for the mouthpiece to create the sound. The tied raffia fibres are persumibly placed to keep insects like flies away from the herdsman or his animals.


The Senufo are mainly farmers. Beside practising the agriculture of yams, peanuts, rice and millet, they farm animals in addition. Large herds of rich farmers are tended by the Fulani tribe, a subgroup of the Senufo. All animal species, such as cattle, sheep and goats, are kept together without separating them according to their species (Kunst und Religion bei den Gbato-Senufo, Karl-Heinz Krieg und Wulf Lohse, page 12).


This whistle, which got collected by priests of the "Pères Blancs" mission before 1970 in Burkina Faso, could be just functional. Certain cuts and a hole in the limb would create the same function. But what I admire on this small accoustic device (and on all Senufo items in general), is that so many objects of daily use are always created with an artistic awareness. But there is always a typical design that makes something admirable, individual and that shows identification with the tradition of its own culture. This whistle is not just a whistle, it is a Senufo whistle.



Senufo whistle. Collected before 1970 by priests of the "Pères Blancs" mission, Burkina Faso.

23,5 x 2,0 x 2,5 cm, wood, raffia.


Wenn Urform Form bestimmt, Markus Ehrhard, page 86 - 87.


Content and images by Markus Ehrhard, 14.01.2021

Senufo oddities: The Féhéwi Ring

It was an interesting process describing the Féhéwi rings in my books, because they were an important inspiration in my design. Their casting process was also very influencial for me to explore and to learn from. Surprisingly, there was a lot of information in other books, which were largely congruent and identical. No wonder, its purpose is also a very exciting story.


But, and that was the dilemma, finding an authentic ring was the problem. There were loads of beautiful rings that looked amazing at first sight. Their design was just beyond. Impressive in size, loads of decorations and details, and all kind of lost wax techniques imaginable. But all these rings were absolutely unbearable, and most of them more phantasy than authentic. They were overloaded and truly a pain on your hand, when trying them on (I always try on tribal objects, especially the masks to see if they fit, as one sign of authenticity. If they don't fit or are uncomfortable, I leave it).


Right before my deadline of my second book my friend Souleymane Arachi came from Napié, south of Korhogo, and found a ring for me. I will tell you honestly, I didn't like it. I was disappointed. The ring is misshappen and quirky. And it shows neither elegance nor aesthetics, what you know from other rings. But it was worn, and probably not just by one owner.


Before I get into the history and background of these rings, I would first like to name the indications why the ring can be described as authentic: As a jewelry designer I can see, when metal like bronze is darkened with chemicals, like Noirit. I use that lye to darken the metal on my creations to get a vintage look. This ring has darkened naturally by age. It is not antique, not from before 1945. But the ring was also not recently made in the last 20 years. Second indicator is the patching on one of the horns, that obviously broke. It is not soldered, it is casted, which makes that reparation even more interesting. I persume the wax prototype broke and it got fixed with wax before casted. And finally the third indicator, and that one you can simply not fake, is the abrasion and the polish inside the ring itself. And also very impressive, that the owner changed. The ring received a knotted binding for the new and smaller size. It looks like a woollen yarn was used, which felted over the time.


The Féhéwi rings always show an ox head. These rings are worn by a group of Gbato-Senufo (natural) healers, the Nokârigâh. But these rings are also documented in neighboring groups around Korhogo having the same name. It is worn on the middle finger as an official identification mark and as a confession to this group. The Nokârigâh are men who have the gift of transforming themselves into an ox in a ceremony. The Féhéwi ring is held by the wearer with his teeth and then sees from the point of view of the animal. Back in his human consciousness, he now knows how to outwit the animal for his benefit (Glänzend wie Gold, Till Förster, pages 201 - 202. Afrika Begegnung, Artur Elmer, page 85).


The Féhéwi is also known and described as the "silent ring" or "ring of silence". However, I could not find a clear explanation for that. Only that the wearer cannot speak when holding the ring in his mouth, obviously. And that a Nokârigâh is bound to silence and that his affiliation to this covenant is secret. However, the fact that these rings are worn officially and visibly by everyone speaks against it.


Senufo Féhéwi ring. Collected by Souleymane Arachi in Napié, south of Korhogo.

7,5 x 6,5 x 3,5 cm, bronze.


Wenn Neuordnung Ordnung schafft, Markus Ehrhard, page 88 - 89.


Content and images by Markus Ehrhard, 06.12.2020


Senufo oddities: The Sicanchon

You might saw this little weirdo in relation to the Mossi pouppees from Burkina Faso, little dolls for children that look abstract and very futuristic.


But these small objects are from the Senufo from Burkina Faso. They are love spikes or love nails. Their name is Sicanchon. "Sican" is the word for a nail, "chon" is the name for a human.

The wedge-shaped stick does hold a head with a comb on top. They usually are made by the profession group of Fono and they come as a couple, man and woman. It can not be clarified, if a Tugubele spirit is represented.


In Senufo tradition, the bride is commonly awarded to a groom. Cases where a successful farmer, who won a competition, receives a woman as a prize is still common today. So there is a bad chance for a relationship based on true love. If a woman has already been promised to a man, her childhood friend or the real lover gives her two of these Sicanchon nails and sticks them into the mud wall of the hut where she lives in (Afrikanische Kunst, Stefan Eisenhofer und Karin Guggeis, page 51). It is a sign, that there is a true love and that the woman is admired.


Because these Sicanchons are exposed to the weather, it is rare to find a whole pair of nails in good condition. I haven't seen them often, but I never saw a faked piece or that they are made for selling as airport-art.



Sicanchon, love nail. Unknown carver.

Collected by Karl-Heinz Krieg.

14,0 x 1,5 x 2,5 cm, wood.


- Wenn Wenn Urform Form bestimmt, Markus Ehrhard, pages 88 - 89.


Images and content by Markus Ehrhard, 01.10.2020

Senufo oddities: The weird bird

Sometimes you buy a sculpture where the provenance, the age and the clear assignment for a distinctive feature doesn't matter. Sometimes you buy a sculpture that is completely out of the frame. The proportions are different to the ones you are used to know. The making is different to what you normally admire. And maybe it didn't cost much money, because no one else bought it before. We know enough about statues and masks from books, from exhibitions and trade fairs, and we see a flood of images on social media.





It fascinates, pulls you under its spell, triggers emotions in you. You have the unexplainable urge that you want to own it. Not in general, but every now and then, one finds an object that does not fit the requirements at all: An oddity.


From 2010 to 2012 I visited Karl-Heinz Krieg many times in his house next to Hamburg. Every time I saw something new in his show rooms. And every time I saw a little humble bird standing next to Lobi statues on a shelf. By far not pretty, completely out of shape, out of any proportion and, sorry to say, out of any esthetics. And € 100 for 10 cm was a bit expensive in my opinion.


At my last visit, I was already in my car and about to leave, I turned to Karl-Heinz and said, that I have the urge to buy the weird little bird. He knew immediately which one I was talking about. He told me, that he observed that I always sneaked around that sculpture, like a panther around his victim.


Karl-Heinz Krieg bought this sculpture in 1965 and confirmed, that this bird is very old, from before 1900. It is different to the classic Calao bird and it has nothing in common with the farmer's birds, another Senufo sculpture on its own. It can't be a childrens toy or puppet. So we persumed, that this bird is a custom made object for a diviner.


At Senufo culture, the Calao bird is of main importance. He belongs to group of protozoans with the chameleon, the turtle and the python. The Calao does pic on the forehead to give wisdom. Sometimes he is placed on the top of a Kpelié mask, pecking the forehead. All Kpelié masks have a scar on that place, caused by the Calao bird. He is omniscient and all-knowing. So his appearance is sublime, powerful and elegant. All features this little bird certainly does not have.


His bulky feet are strong, so it can stand on its own. The body has no anatomy, is undefined and deconstructed. The hatching on the back represent wings with feathers and feathers stand up right at the rump.


Till today I can not figure out, what exactly it was made for. Maybe it is just an artit's temper, I don't know. And I don't mind to know, because everytime I see it, I always start thinking, why it catches my attention and why it has that magic. And this bird is by far the oldest sculpture in the collection.



Senufo bird (chicken?). Time of creation before 1900. Collected by Karl-Heinz Krieg in 1965.

10,0 x 8,0 x 6,5 cm, wood.


Wenn Brauch Gebrauch beeinflusst, Markus Ehrhard, page 88 - 89.


Content and images by Markus Ehrhard, 11.09.2020


The Tougou N'Gambele - a unity of spiritual connection

In Sando-cult of the Senufo, there is a number of certain statues used by the diviner. They all are Tugubele spirits with different purposes. In general the diviner works with a Tugubele couple, a seperate woman, which is usually a bit higher than the single male statue. Both represent the Tugubele spirits. These couples have an average size of 20 cm to 30 cm. Smaller couples, from 10 cm to 20 cm are mainly given to the person who consulted the diviner, they are called Nyingife.


But the diviner works with a slightly different statue too, the Tougou N'Gambele. Characteristic for this type is a couple that is fixed on a unit base or sits together or a stool or small bench. Both figures are carved symmentric with crossed arms on their back. The Tougou N'Gambele can represent the two Tugubele spirits, like the couples with two separate figures, but it can also be a representation for the corporation between the diviner and his connected Tugubele spirit (source: Afrika Begegnung, Artur und Heidrun Elmer, page 40).

So there are variations of the Tougou N'Gambele. You will find a male and female couple, but also male and male or female and female couples. Like with the double faced Kpelié mask, which is often wrongly explained with bisexuality, there are the same misunderstandings in literature with these spiritually connected couples, when both spirits show the same gender. It is not homosexuality that is represented. It can be the case, that a male diviner is connected to a male Tugubele spirit, or that a female diviner is connected to a female Tugubele spirit. So all these variations of unities do offer a lot of space for interpretation.


When asking a carver, there is always an individual story to this certain genre of Senufo statues. Indiviual are also the sizes of the Tougou N'Gambele. They vary from about 15 cm up to 40 cm.


The bottomline and the intension of these figures is, that a united connection is presented. Following three diverse variations of the Tougou N'Gambele, which all show the unity of a spiritual connection.


This 17,5 cm small Tougou N'Gambele is carved by Yalourga Soro, a Koulé from Ganaoni. Here you see male and female figure. This constellation can show a Tugubele man and a Tugubele woman. Or a male diviner with his female Tugubele spirit, respectively the female diviner and her male Tugubele spirit.

Yalourga was a very precise carver in the double faced Kpelié in carving two identical face. In case of his statues, it is obvious that he had problems in carving the same face twice. They are always very different.


Tougou N'Gambele, carved by Yalourga Soro, Ganaoni.

17,5 x 7,5 x 6,0 cm, wood.


Not published yet.


There are no terms or words, nor importance or meaning of homo- or bisexuality in Senufo culture.


The Tougou N'Gambele statue from the family of Koukouho Coulibaly, from the area of Kouto, does show two women. One does represent the Sando diviner and the other the connected Tugubele spirit.



Tougou N'Gambele, carved by  Koukouho Coulibaly (or family?), Koulé from Kouto.

25,5 x 10,0 x 9,5 cm, wood.


Wenn Neuordnung Ordnung schafft, Markus Ehrhard, pages 108 - 111.

- Kunst und Religion bei den Gbato-Senufo, Elfenbeinküste, Karl-Heinz Krieg und Wulf Lohse, page 34.

- Afrika Begegnung, aus der Sammlung Artur und Heidrun Elmer, page 39 and 41.

With 37 cm this Tougou N'Gambele is a large representation the Tugubele spirits itself shown as a family. Like with the common Tugubele couples, where a male and a female spirit is represented in an own figure, this couple represent both Tugubele spirits.


Tchètin Bêh Konaté, a Koulé, did carve this Tougou N'Gambele with the traditional pearl belt around their hips, the symbol for the Cafouhôconri, a new level of initiation.

From the front, the crossed arms do look bulky and not natural. Watching the back, the solution of the crossed arms that focus the connection are solved elegant.

The patina with the black stain treatment is superbe on this carving, which was collected in the area of Boundiali.



Tougou N'Gambele, carved by Tchètin Bêh Konaté, born 1920, died 1996 in Zanguinasso. Carved around 1960 or earlier.

37,0 x 15,5 x 6,5 cm, wood.


Not published yet.



Content and images by Markus Ehrhard, 17.08.2020