JOURNEY TO THE AFTERWORLD
The Senufo live in the northern region of Ivory Coast, in southeastern Mali and in western Burkina Faso. Renowned for their artistic skills, they are accomplished carvers of wood sculptures, masks, and symbolic figures – skills which have been handed down from one generation to another.
The Senoufo are, above all, known for their deep attachment and dedication to ancestral practices and religious beliefs. To get in touch with the Creator God they use sacred objects imbued with powers as intermediaries. These are considered the channels of communication with the divinity and also serve to protect themselves from the power of evil spirits. Their spirit houses are filled with numerous depictions of sacred animals and spiritual figures, intended to protect the sacred place where ritual sacrifices are made.
The Senufo believe that after death, due to a strong attachment to the mortal world, the spirit of a deceased person may linger around the village. Fearing that this will bring adversity to the community, villagers conduct a protracted funeral rite to exorcise the spirit from their midst, sending it to the afterword. There, as a respected ancestor, the deceased will benefit both family and community.
The organization of Senufo funerals is the responsibility of the highly secret male Poro society. From a sacred grove outside the village, the Poro elders oversee a succession of musicians and maskers, who, over the course of two days, preside over the burial of the body and the expulsion of the errant soul from the community into the afterworld.