Ouazomon: Helmet Attributed to Sabariko Koné (Barbier-Mueller Museum, Inv. 1006-48)

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Helmet attributed to Sabariko Koné
Barbier-Mueller Museum, Geneva, Switzerland, Inv. 1006-48
H. 39 cm
Reported provenance: Josef Mueller, Solothurn, Switzerland
Photo: © Musée Barbier‐Mueller, photo Studio Ferrazzini Bouchet

Ouazomon: Helmet Attributed to Sabariko Koné (Barbier-Mueller Museum, Inv. 1006-48)

Art historian Anita Glaze (1993, 2: 17, cat. 10) attributes this wooden helmet (or cap) to an artist whom she identifies as Sabarikwo of Ouazomon, Côte d’Ivoire. Without specifying the exact source for her information, she indicates the cap came “from the southern Gbato area near Ganaoni,” a locale about thirty kilometers from Ouazomon. She then explains, “the general stylistic handling of the piece, especially the ears, the mane or coxcomb motif and the general proportions and strength of composition, suggest [the cap] to be the work of the master sculptor Sabarikwo.” She also claims, “this famous sculptor may have invented a carved poro [male initiation association] headdress somewhat similar in style and typology (minus the bull’s horn motif), the dangu [helmet]” (1993, 2: 17, cat. 10).

Glaze’s statements about the sculpture and the artist’s oeuvre differ from other observers’ understandings. The late German collector, dealer, and traveler Karl-Kreinz Krieg (2002, 85) explicitly rejects Glaze’s attribution of the helmet to Sabarikwo, whose name he writes as Sabariko Koné, and whom he associates with other works. Krieg first traveled to the three-corner region in 1959, and over a period of nearly forty years, he regularly visited the region and other areas of West Africa. He also often collected objects to transport to Europe. For example, during his travels in northern Côte d’Ivoire and neighboring Mali in the early 1960s, Krieg acquired a number of works labeled as Senufo for the Linden-Museum Stuttgart, Germany.

Reflecting on the helmet Glaze attributes to Sabarikwo, Krieg indicates he owned a similar helmet reportedly from Fakola, Mali (see Krieg 2002, 106, fig. 106). He recounts that he showed the helmet to Karna (possibly Zélé-Karna) Kon , leader of a grove in Boundiali, an Ivoirian town nearly eighty miles from Fakola and less than ten miles north of Ouazomon. Krieg asked the Boundiali leader if he recognized the type of carving. Krieg reports that Koné replied, “This model of mask [known as] sigi does not exist with us, we do not know it; we have never seen such a mask.” Koné’s remark suggests the form comes from or was prevalent in a different region.

With reference to two other helmets similar in form to the one in the Barbier-Mueller Museum about which Glaze wrote and apparently in the Elmer Collection by 2002 (2002, 80, figs. 96–98), Krieg (2002, 81) describes a masquerade practice named sigi or sigui. Krieg bases his description of sigi on an exchange with Yacouba Konaté, a man from Fakola in southern Mali whom Krieg identifies as Bamana. Krieg characterizes sigi performances as public events open to men, women, and children that take place during local festivals and visits of high-ranking government officials. Krieg reports Konaté recognized the distinctive form as one that spread from Bamana communities in southern Mali to other places across the region and that varies from place to place. According to Krieg, Konaté also emphasized fluidity and exchange in the region prior to French colonization, which began in the late nineteenth century. Krieg concludes that Bamana communities around the town of Fakola as well as neighboring Senufo communities along the Malian-Ivoirian border support sigi masquerades.

The name of this helmet’s maker, its location of origin, and its link to a single cultural or ethnic group remain vague. As this study of a single helmet reveals, artists’ names, locations, and style attributions for a single object and formally similar example may vary among late twentieth-century observers of art in the same region. Without fully acknowledging their sources, observers may draw on firsthand knowledge or they may repeat information gleaned from other sources. Thus, names of artists, places, or styles may confirm little about an object.

Susan Elizabeth Gagliardi and Constantine Petridis
12 June 2016


Glaze, Anita J. “Healer’s society cap maps, nͻͻ.” In Art of Côte d’Ivoire: From the Collections of the Barbier-Mueller Museum, edited by Jean Paul Barbier, 2: 17, cat. 10. Geneva: Barbier-Mueller Museum, 1993.

Krieg, Karl-Heinz. “Zur Kunst der Senufo in der nördlchen Elfebneinküste und im südlichen Mali.” In Afrika – Begegnung, Künstler, Kunst, Kultur, aus der Sammlung Artur und Heidrun Elmer, edited by Artur and Heidrun Elmer, 25–85. Viersen: Städtische Galerie im Park Viersen, 2002.


Convers, Michel. “Strange and Fascinating Nyikaryi.” World of Tribal Arts 4, no. 4 (1998): 70-81.

Gagliardi, Susan Elizabeth. Senufo Unbound: Dynamics of Art and Identity in West Africa, 248, pl. 182. Cleveland: The Cleveland Museum of Art; Milan: 5 Continents Editions, 2015.

Glaze, Anita J. “Healer’s society cap maps, nͻͻ.” In Art of Côte d’Ivoire: From the Collections of the Barbier-Mueller Museum, edited by Jean Paul Barbier, 2: 17, cat. 10. Geneva: Barbier-Mueller Museum, 1993.


Gagliardi, Susan Elizabeth, and Constantine Petridis. “Ouazomon: Helmet Attributed to Sabarikwo (Barbier-Mueller Museum, Inv. 1006-48).” In Mapping Senufo. Atlanta: Emory Center for Digital Scholarship, 2015–. http://www.mappingsenufo.org/archives/875 (12 June 2016), accessed 18 May 2021.