I'm not at all familiar with the Senufo, Dogon or other African tribes. But I read once that the Asmat (Irian Jaya on Borneo) cut their fingers of to remember a deceised member of the family. For each member, one finger. When I'm not mistaking, it are the women doing that.
Instituut voor de Studie van de Letterkunde in de Nederlanden - Afdeling Renaissance
Grote Kauwenberg 18, lokaal D216
namens Veronique Martelliere
Verzonden: wo 29/11/2006 13:23
Onderwerp: Re: [African_Arts] Re: Senoufo (to Paolo-W.)
You give me an appetite for reading the books you mention... thank You !
The reason why I frowned when reading Paolo's report was not in itself the story of the amputation of a hand but because it was about a self-inflicted mutilation, coldly made (out of any kind of transe or autistic pathology).
According to Griaule, Dogon & Bambara give hand & fingers important symbolisms (little finger = secrets, thumb.= wisdom, etc)... but I do not remember reading about fathers cutting one of their hands and offering it to their son or grandson, before dying...
But why not, Hingham ? Traditions do not exclude fantasy !
I can not help responding to the story of the cutting off of the
hand of the grandfather because I have read about this before in a
few old books. One book called JUNGLE WAYS by William Seabrook is a
very curious read which chronicles the author's trip to the Ivory
Coast and Liberia during the 1930's. He related the story of one man
who kept his father's hand essentially as a fetish ( to use a
politically incorrect term) which was used by his patri-clan for
divination purposes. Such use is also recorded by George Schwab in
TRIBES OF THE LIBERIAN HINTERLAND.
Generally speaking, the older ethnographic literature (particularly
literature prior to the 1930's) is more explicit (and also quite
generally biased) about the making of fetishes or power objects. Many
of these relics are charged with organic material whose recipes may
contain human remains- as these remains are deemed to be one of the
most powerful medicines known. This is described in the making of a
Yaka fetish for example, but there are numerous examples. Even today,
the activities of the so called "heart-men" in Liberia which is just
one example of many--demonstrate that this concept is very alive
--- In African_Arts@yahoogroups.com
, Veronique Martelliere
> Dear Paolo-W.,
> Yes, the Fon are probably the "champions" in sacrifices - in
the 'patinian' results of frequent sacrifices and in the adaptation
to "modern" sacrifices as cigarettes, whisky, cans of condensated
milk, etc - I believe Vodun is a very living practice, rather
> The story of the man cutting his hand 3 days before his death is
weird... it doesn't say anyway if he died of an haemorraghe i.e.
because he cut 'precisely' his hand...
> Do you think that this story is believable or do you think that
it is another of these hypnotising stories aiming to plunge you into
another dimension ?
> Here you'll find an answer to your question about ironwood :
> There are more than one hundred species of trees and shrubs in
the world with the common name of "ironwood." As their common name
suggests, the wood of these species is very hard and heavy. Depending
on their native country, many of these species have dozens of other
descriptive common names. For example, South American ironwoods are
often referred to as "quebracho," which translated means "axe-
breaker." Most of the hardest and heaviest ironwood trees grow in
> ... and if you want to know everything about hardwoods, here is
the link :
> (you will find out in which wood was carved the 1,5 meter girafe
that you bought last year in Kenya ).
> Maybe i'm wrong but I believe that carvers do not use any wood to
carve objects and that, often, traditions and beliefs demand a
certain type of wood for a certain type of object. If we knew more
about this, that would give the counterfeiters a harder time...
> Anyway, as far as I could read/notice, the type of wood is very
often specified in Indonesian arts - but it is not so often that it
is specified in books about African arts.
> As to drugs, the best one is pure chocolate. And I mean cocoa.
> Have a nice time in Mali.
> Bis bald !
> paolo paretti <paolo@...> wrote:
> Wolfgang Jaenicke, Jaenicke-Njoya GmbH, Baco Djicoroni ACI, Bamako,
> Mali, Rue 627, Porte 109, Tel.: 00223 - 228 48 18, Handy 00223 -
> Dear Vero,
> at the moment I am in Bamako nearly without any paper of my books.
> So I asked some local African Art dealers from Malinke/Bamana
> On the background of my request related to the "Senufo-mask", a
> guy responded.
> "Everything can be sacrified also this bottle of water! The
> is important not the shape.
> Three days before my grandfather died he cut off one of his hands.
> is a big sacrifice he gave to his family."
> "But what are you doing with the hand of your grandfather?"
> "Oh we are doing many things with this hand - Komo has certain
> how a blacksmith has to carve a mask
> and how it has to be sacrificed..but this is only one side of the
> The important thing is the sacrifice and
> there are many topics we can´t speak about. But they have an old
> "But what do you know about Komo- and Senufo-masks? In which way
> they related to each other?"
> "Some blacksmiths (the carver of these masks) are traveling...they
> very well the tradition of the region,
> they know other tribes - yafamou - you understand?"
> "Hm...No! Can you help me, to find out a little bit more about my
> concret request?"
> "Maybe...I will ask around!"
> What is "iron-wood". Vero?
> Bad copys are made of Mango-wood (bois fromage), a good one and the
> originals are from "Jalasu-" or "Karitea-wood".
> Maybe the Europeans are calling it "iron-wood" to name the
> of the quality.
> There are more informations about the carving of a mask than about
> sacrifice patina.
> From the Ewe/Fon region I have heard that some sculptures need even
> it´s daily cigarettes and diesel/essence-sacrifices.
> Things are changing even in Africa...;-). It would be nice if it
> happens also in the heads of the Western collectors.
> Creating counterfeit-money?
> Even it looks like a brownie don´t eat to much from it..there could
> shit in it.
> Drugs are dangerous, isn´t it?
> Am 14.11.2006 um 09:14 schrieb Veronique Martelliere:
> > Dear Paolo-W.,
> > Thanks to you, I revised my Senoufo lessons and browsed in all I
> > on paper about Senoufo.
> > Did not find any Senoufo mask with encrusted patina.
> > Herewith you'll find the photo of a Korubla mask which is the
> > similar in features to the one you present (found in L. Segy) as
> > as a photo of a Kponyogo/"spitfire" (Dapper) which shines as a
> > shoe-shined shoe, though the end of its nose is slightly crusted
> > soil, it seems).
> > The attachment-holes of the Korubla that you present are also a
> > disturbing - unless this mask is made of iron-wood (which would
> > be disturbing), they could be a good advertising for Black &
> > drillers.
> > Crusted patina is puzzling.
> > I wonder if any authentic crusted patina has ever been analyzed
> > biologist. I just can guess it can be blood, soil, palm wine, oil
> > different seeds, smoke, sweat,... and who knows what else.
> > I always find it surprising when an object is covered with a
> > patina (whatever its type) : when the same patina covers the
> > surface, with the same thickness, reaching every single corner of
> > object - just as if the sacrifices had been 'finished' with a
> > Coming from above, the thrown substances should, at certain
> > the carving, stop running down stagnate and make a
> > After all, maybe the uniformity of crusted patina is magic.
> > Authentically magic. Or magically authentic.
> > Or maybe should I make a many year experience by throwing
> > blood, oil and such things on a wooden head and see, day after
> > day, how the head takes it. <35.gif> Is there any butcher, among
> > members, who would accept to make this experience ?
> > I like your expression : baked patina - or baked mask.
> > And from now on, I will call brownies what will seem to me to be
> > "crusted counterfeits". <01.gif>
> > Be well, W.
> > Vero
> > Everyone is raving about the all-new Yahoo! Mail beta.
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