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Authentic 19th Century Senufo Rhythm Pounder Pombibele DÉblÉ Superb Patina For Sale
This piece is probably one of the few authentic rhythm pounders or deble/pombibele
you will find for sale on the internet today.
Many such figures currently online are usually made for the tourist trade. This
piece is definitely not one of them! It
is a very old, probably 19th century piece which has been extensively
used for tribal rituals and ceremonies. I invite you to examine each photograph
closely and observe the unmistakable signs of wear and extensive use - notably
the eroded base, the age cracks and the overall mellow patina.
This rhythm pounder comes from
my family’s private collection - started by my grandfather around 1910 to 1915
and later added to by various members of his immediate family on a very
sporadic basis (it is a modest but interesting collection). This piece was probably collected by my
grandaunt (a nurse) during one of her travels before WW II but I cannot be
totally sure (even though I have heard family anecdotes regarding how this
pounder came to be collected). About ten
years ago, I hand-carried it to a “walk-in” appraisal session at the Paris l’Hotel
Drouot where it was verbally authenticated as an early example of a Senufo
rhythm pounder (no valuation was given at that time). I later consulted a Belgian tribal art
gallery owner online regarding this piece and, although he gave me an informal sale appraisal for a five-figure value (!), he was, understandably, unable to commit to this figure until he could personally inspect the piece. I have never had another opportunity or occasion
to bring the piece back to Europe for him to inspect up close. I am instead listing it with a
relatively modest starting offer because I am currently motivated to raise
funds for my next project.
The Senufo people of West
Africa are scattered across the African countries of Mali, Ivory Coast and
Burkina Faso and have produced some of the most artistically celebrated and
rarest objects of Africa art known to the world today. One of
the most iconic of the Senufo tribal carvings is the Pombibele, or rhythm pounders,
as they have come to be called in the West.
These objects were kept in great secrecy, to be used only for rites and ceremonies of secret tribal organizations such as the Poro society - for instance, during
initiations and funerals. While rhythm pounders from the Northern and
Central Senufo Areas were created to
be ritually displayed on ceremonial ground, examples from the Southern Areas, such
as the rhythm pounder in this sale, were created to be carried around and pounded
on the ground to provide rhythm for dancers.
The number of authentic, tribally used rhythm pounders in existence
today is quite small. These were usually
commissioned by Poro members (who
have had a spiritual or visionary experience) and were carved to be
venerated. Because of their unique ceremonial role
in Senufo secret societies, they were
kept away from the prying eyes of outsiders, stored with great secrecy and
eventually destroyed when, after much use, they were no longer perceived to be
objects of idealized perfection or beauty.
It was usually the persuasion of Western outsiders (who offered to buy
these objects) which saved many of these rare carvings from destruction or
This rhythm pounder stylistically belongs to a smaller, less documented
sub-class of such objects. It depicts a
female figure standing on a semi-domed base.
The elongated face has been carved with “cowry shell” downcast eyes,
pointed “pouty” lips, a “cock’s comb” coiffure and incised scarification on its
face and cheeks. There is additional
decorative scarification on top of the figure’s breasts as well as on its
stomach area, radiating from the protruding navel. This female figure is also carved with
bracelets, arm bands and a fragmentary skirt with a low relief zigzag decorative
pattern. The statue has developed an
overall aged honey brown patina from use.
There are very clearly defined cracks in the back of its head and upper
back – the edges of which have file away with time. The bottom of the base has is clearly eroded from
years of pounding on the ground.
In addition to this rhythm pounder, I will send the winning buyer a
copy of the book “SENUFO (Massa et les
statues du poro)” by Burkhard Gottschalk, which is an authoritative compendium
of information on Senufo rhythm pounders. It is generously illustrated with
photographs, making it a rich pictorial resource if you do not read
French (since this book is written entirely in French). This hard-to-find 244-page book
had a retail value of about $70 value five years ago but is now getting harder
to find. I will mail it to the winning
buyer separately since the rhythm pounder is already securely packed and ready
to ship. Although I usually ship via
USPS Priority Male, in this case, I will have to use USPS Ground Delivery
because of its size and weight. If,
after winning the sale, you would like to upgrade or change the shipping
details, you must be willing to pay for the difference in shipping fees, which
we can arrange after you communicate with me.
I am currently downsizing and selling part of my
personal collection of ethnographic and related materials in order to help pay
for my next major project (!) – relocating to a new residence.
Please be aware, therefore, that during the next few weeks or so, I plan to
list many of these interesting and, often, unique objects on .
Also note that:
PayPal is my accepted
mode of payment. Please pay within 48 hours after winning the sale.
Unpaid items will most probably be re-listed after the fifth day of
Because of my present scheduling
restraints, I am currently limiting my sales and shipping ONLY to buyers
within the United States but this may change in the future.Sold items
will be well packed for optimum safety during shipment and will be shipped via USPS
PRIORITY MAIL within 24 to 48 hours of receipt of payment, unless otherwise
specified in the description or instructions. Insurance is included in
the shipping price.
No returns or exchanges but sold items are
covered by Buyer Protection. Because all items are sold as-is
and all sales are final, please read my listing thoroughly before making a
offer. If you have any questions regarding any listed item, I encourage you
to contact me via ’s “Ask a question” link.