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Unknown Maker
Female Divination Figure (Tugu) Female Divination Figure (Tugu)
19th-20th century 19th-20th century

A male-female pair of sculptures known as tugubele (or ndebele and madebele in other Senufo dialects) are the most important objects used in Senufo divination. Placed in a prominent position in front of a diviner and client, the sculptures embody bush spirits that offer guidance during a divination session. This female figure, with her jutting chin, slightly flexed knees, and bent arms, conveys the alert readiness that characterizes such spirits.

Depending on the diviner¿s experience level and status, tugubele vary in material and size. Novice diviners often use small copper alloy figures, while established ones might commission a wood sculpture from a carver or a blacksmith. Possessing the tools required for carving, blacksmiths frequently perform this task in West African societies. Individual features that personalize the spirit, such as the armbands seen here, often appear in a diviner¿s or artist¿s dreams. Their inclusion is highly valued, suggesting a close relationship between diviner and bush spirit.

Regardless of material or degree of complexity, a tugu¿s beauty must appeal to the spirit associated with it. Like this work, most wood sculptures have oiled black surfaces that are considered attractive; female figures display the radiating scarification pattern around the navel known as ¿mother of twins¿ or ¿navel of mother,¿ a mark of a woman who has been initiated into Senufo society. To further create a beautiful and pleasing environment, additional figures such as twins or a horse and rider might be placed alongside the tugubele.

 
Unknown Maker
Senufo peoples Senufo peoples
Female Divination Figure (Tugu) Female Divination Figure (Tugu)
19th-20th century 19th-20th century
wood wood
height / width / depth: 14.00 x 4.20 x 3.30 cm; 5.51 x 1.65 x 1.30 in.
Gift of Justin and Elisabeth Lang, 1984 Gift of Justin and Elisabeth Lang, 1984
M84-013

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