Senufo: Art and Identity in West Africa is the first presentation of Senufo art in the United States in the last 50 years and includes more than 160 works borrowed from nearly 60 public and private collections in Europe, Asia, Africa and North America, many of which have never before been publicly displayed.
The selection of masks, figures and decorative arts in diverse styles and mediums, the exhibition introduces visitors to the poro and sandogo societies, the primary settings for the production and use of works of art in the Senufo-speaking region of northern Côte d’Ivoire. Drawing on recent research in Mali and Burkina Faso, the exhibition also includes sculptures not usually attributed to Senufo-speaking artists or patrons, thus shattering the boundaries of the arts typically identified as Senufo.
“Original scholarship has always been a defining aspect of the work of the Cleveland Museum of Art, and this important exhibition offers a new approach to the understanding, and presentation of African art” said William M. Griswold, director of the Cleveland Museum of Art. “While emphasizing the unique nature of every work of art, Senufo: Art and Identity in West Africa demonstrates there are often common formal and functional threads as culture groups influence each other’s arts.”
Organized by the Cleveland Museum of Art, Senufo: Art and Identity in West Africa will subsequently also travel to the Saint Louis Art Museum and the Musée Fabre in Montpellier, France.
Included in the exhibition are a handful of historical photographs and books as well as 14 gelatin silver prints made by French photographer Agnès Pataux in Burkina Faso and Mali in 2006–8.