Photos The Senufo maintain a distinctive Spirit House, called Kargbee, containing a rich array of objects that help establish contact with the spirit world. The exterior of the house is decorated with spots like the feathers of guinea fowl and with wall reliefs of animals and ancestors. Inside, the soothsayer receives practitioners.The guardian of the spirit house relaxes in the cool and calm of the mens resting house nearby.Sculpted into the walls of the Karghee house are both powerful animals (top) believed to be among the first beings created and human figures (bottom) with prominent genitalia covered in real hair to represent ancestral power and fertility.Senefo burial rites are performed twice: once before the corpse is interred and again after the burial to ensure the spirit of the dead has departed. To begin the ritual, an awesome Kporo mask appears from the forest with its head disguised under foliage and carrying a drum. The Kporo approaches the carved wooden funeral bed, kneels before the staff representing the body, and places his drum on the bed, beating it hard three times to release the dead person’s life force.The leafy Kurumbla mask and the jovial round-faced Kanamito mask emerge from the sacred forest to assist with the funeral.A Yarajo mask, the master of ceremonies for the funeral rites, enters the village. Ostensibly a clown, the Yarajo is important and powerful, for behind his tomfoolery he must discover who should be admitted to the secret funeral rituals. He asks the crowd coded riddles and the answers given disclose who is a Poro initiate and may attend the rituals. The Yarajo mask also asks people for money in memory of the deceased.Summoned out of the forest by a volley of gunfire, a Yarajo mask dances around the sacred staff lain on the funeral bed, called Kafudal, which is carved from a single tree trunk. This staff, wrapped in cloth, represents the deceased. A Poro initiate will then remove the staff from the ceremonial cloth and lay it to rest in the bush.The Wambele mask cavorts in and out of the sacred burial ground which is its traditional spirit home. Decorated with feather and porcupine quill plumes, the Wambele appear at Senufo funeral rituals and at secret Poro ceremonies that occur once every seven years.Often believed to represent antelopes, the doubleheaded Wambele mask is in fact a complex hybrid, incorporating the features borrowed from many creatures, such as the tusks of warthogs and teeth from crocodiles.With slow elegant movements, Wambele masks dance in pairs around ancestral tombs. Their role is to chase away any lingering spirits that could bring misfortune to the inhabitants of the nearby village.One of the largest masks to be seen at a Senufo funeral is the Nafiq, which charges at terrifying speed through the forest and into the village during funeral rites. Taking the form of a gigantic buffalo, with a head made up from elements of buffalo, warthog, crocodile, and antelope, the Nafiq symbolizes intellectual and physical perfection.In the final rituals of the funeral, Nufori masks, known as Panthers of the Poro, are accompanied by a Boloye band, who play unique one-stringed calabash harps called Bolongo, plucking the string and tapping the side of the instrument with metal finger rings to establish rhythm. Two players reinforce the beat by shaking calabash rattles. The leading player calls out words from a chant to honor the deceased, and the other players answer him with an appropriate rhythmic response.On the last day of the ceremony, a young Poro initiate leads two Nufori acrobat-masks into the village square to perform the final rituals of the Senufo funeral.Known as the Panthers of the Poro, the maskers wear brown spotted costumes made from mud-dyed ritual cloth , designed to terrify the women and children in the audience, who are normally excluded from masked rituals.As they leap, spin, somersault, and twirl with abandon the Nuforis’ acrobatic antics captivate the onlookers. They are respected and even feared by villagers whom they are entitled to hit with a switch. Nuforis mask dancers are selected for training at an early age, undergoing a rigorous course in the disciplines of comedy, acrobatics, dance and most importantly the symbolism of their art.