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Champion-Cultivator Staff

54 in. (137.2 cm)

Unknown, Senufo
Ivoirian

Object Type: Woodwork
Medium and Support: Wood, fiber, cowrie shells, beads, sacrificial materials
Credit Line: Marion Stratton Gould Fund
Accession Number: 1971.64
Location: Currently on view
Link to this object

During the annual hoeing contests of the Senufo, the farmer with the most agricultural prowess wins the champion-cultivator staff for one year. The voluptuous and regal figure, the epitome of Senufo beauty, is posted in the ground during competition to watch over and spur on the contestants. These contests are more than simple agricultural competitions; they weave a rich tapestry of art forms—drumming, singing, dancing, and sculpture—to turn back-breaking labor into an inspiring community ritual. The shiny area visible near the figure’s eye is likely residue from the ritual application of oil, a sacrificial offering made to the powers embodied in the staff.
[Gallery label text, 2009]

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