Senufo: The Art and identity in West Africa

The Exhibition Schedule

  • Cleveland Museum of Art

    Feb 22, 2015 - May 31, 2015
  • Musée Fabre in Montpellier, France

    Nov 28, 2015 - Mar 6, 2016
  • St. Louis Art Museum

    Jun 28, 2015 - Sep 27, 2015

SENUFO: Art and Identity in West Africa
February 22-May 31, 2015
Some of the most beloved artistic creations of sub-Saharan Africa, masks, figures, and decorative art labeled as Senufo have been the subject of numerous studies by African, American, and European scholars since the 1930s. The interest in sculpture identified as Senufo was largely stimulated by its discovery by the artistic avant-garde in the early twentieth century. Pablo Picasso and Fernand Léger were among those to find inspiration in the oeuvre of their West African counterparts.

Through a stunning selection of objects 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. However, 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 corpus typically identified as Senufo.

Featuring nearly 160 loans from museums and private collections in Europe, Canada, and the United States, Senufo: Art and Identity in West Africa examines the shifting meanings of the term Senufo since the late nineteenth century and investigates assumptions underlying the labeling of art as Senufo. Revealing the shortcomings of labels tied to limited cultural or ethnic groups, the exhibition encourages a closer look at individual objects and their particular histories.

Organized by the Cleveland Museum of Art and based on the research of scholar Susan Elizabeth Gagliardi, Senufo: Art and Identity in West Africa will subsequently also travel to the Saint Louis Art Museum (June 28 to September 27, 2015) and the Musée Fabre in Montpellier, France (November 28, 2015 to March 6, 2016.)

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About the Cleveland Museum of Art
The Cleveland Museum of Art is renowned for the quality and breadth of its collection, which includes almost 45,000 objects and spans 6,000 years of achievement in the arts. The museum houses the Ingalls Library and Museum Archives, one of the largest art research libraries in the United States. The Cleveland Museum of Art is a significant international forum for exhibitions, scholarship, performing arts and art education and recently completed an ambitious, multi-phase renovation and expansion project across its campus. One of the top comprehensive art museums in the nation and free of charge to all, the Cleveland Museum of Art is located in the dynamic University Circle neighborhood.
The Cleveland Museum of Art is supported by a broad range of individuals, foundations and businesses in Cleveland and Northeast Ohio. The museum is generously funded by Cuyahoga County residents through Cuyahoga Arts and Culture. Additional support comes from the Ohio Arts Council, which helps fund the museum with state tax dollars to encourage economic growth, educational excellence and cultural enrichment for all Ohioans. For more information about the museum, its holdings, programs and events, call 888-CMA-0033 or visit