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Authentic 19th Century Senufo Rhythm Pounder Pombibele DÉblÉ Superb Patina For Sale

Authentic 19th Century Senufo Rhythm Pounder Pombibele DÉblÉ Superb Patina

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 total neglect.

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.

H = 32 inches or 81 cm

Wt. of packed, boxed statue = 12 lb.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

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 non-payment.
  • 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.

Authentic 19th Century Senufo Rhythm Pounder Pombibele DÉblÉ Superb Patina

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