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Unknown Maker
Champion Cultivator’s Staff (Tefalipitya)
20th century

Among the Senufo, tefalipitya (“the girl of the hoe workers”) refers to a mid-size staff with a pointed end that features a woman seated on a footstool at its top. One of two types of champion cultivator staffs, its use is intimately connected to the high value placed on agriculture and community productivity in Senufo culture. Young men ready for initiation are encouraged to participate in day-long hoeing competitions during the harvest season. The best competitors are honoured by a cultivator staff, which is placed into the ground near their work. The tefalipitya also appears at the funerals of past successful competitors. At all times its presence serves as a high honour and a reminder to work collectively for the community.

Champion cultivator staffs emphasize male-female complementarity as the young men are nearing marriageable age. Representing a pitya, a young, beautiful, unmarried female, the woman at the top of this staff is the ideal future partner. Her dignified position of repose provides a purposeful contrast to the active labour of the youth. The pitya¿s future role of mother is suggested by the attachment of attributes such as cowrie shells, as seen on this example. Associated with female concerns such as divination and childbearing, the shells are placed where children are typically carried.

The tefalipitya is sometimes accompanied by or replaced with another, taller staff surmounted by an eagle and its young, an example of which can be found in the Lang collection (see M84-385).

 
Unknown Maker
Senufo peoples
Champion Cultivator’s Staff (Tefalipitya)
20th century
wood, beads, fibre, cloth, cowries
height / width / depth: 108.80 x 7.30 x 6.30 cm; 42.83 x 2.87 x 2.48 in.
Gift of Justin and Elisabeth Lang, 1984
M84-112

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