Our maps show locations associated in different ways with arts identified as Senufo. Sources of place-based information vary, and the information can often be difficult to verify.

Mapping Senufo uses names that correspond to approved place names in the database of the GEOnet Names Search (GNS), administered by the US National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA). A National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency statement explains that the U.S. Board on Geographic Names (BGN) Foreign Names Committee “relies heavily on native mapping, census reports, official bulletins, and other foreign material to collect and standardize foreign geographic names for use by U.S. Government agencies.” (National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency 2015). The approved names are current at the time of our searches, and they do not automatically update if the GNS database changes. CartoDB base maps may show other spellings or names for a place.

Location data connected to arts do not always match information in the GNS database.

In some instances, a GNS-database search for a single place name may yield more than one place. For example, a search for Markala in present-day Mali revealed seven distinct places known by that name.

Or the GNS-database search for a place name may yield no results. Historical maps, Google Earth, or other tools may at times, but not always, help to identify such a location. For example, an initial GNS-database search for Tyelikaha in present-day Côte d’Ivoire generated no results. However, Professor Till Förster informed us the town is located between Nafoun and Odia (personal communication, 16 May 2015). Using Google Earth’s satellite view, we found a settlement between Nafoun and Odia that coincides with Förster’s description of the place. We captured its coordinates to locate it on our map. Once plotted on the map, we saw spelling Tiéliga for the town. A new GNS-database search revealed that the GNS uses Tiéliga as the approved place name. Yet Förster indicates the spelling is not familiar to him, and he prefers the spelling Tyelikaha that appears on administrative maps he uses (personal communication, 1-2 June 2015).

And even if a GNS-database search indicates possible locations for a single place name, still other sources may suggest that none of the locations identified by the GNS database correspond to the place connected with a particular object or image. For example, field collector Frédéric-Henri Lem (1949, 41, pl. 36-37) reports acquiring a mask in a place he describes as “Fenkolo, Sikasso circle” of present-day Mali. A GNS-database search for Fenkolo yields populated places with the approved names Finnkolo and Finkolo, each located in the vicinity of the city of Sikasso and each also recognized by the variant spelling Fenkolo. Finnkolo or Finkolo may or may not be the town where Lem collected the object.

Observers at times provide only partial information about where they saw or documented arts. For example, French Catholic missionary Gabriel Clamens did not disclose the location of a photograph later linked to Lataha, Côte d’Ivoire, when he published the picture in 1953. And art historian Anita J. Glaze often only offers the name of regions where she photographed sculptures or performances.

In addition, collection or documentation of an object in one place does not necessarily mean that people in that place made it, sponsored its production, or were the target audience for it.

Evidence to support links between named places and particular arts is often limited, and even data that seem specific require caution.

So, we have to look closely at place-based information in order to discern different types of data. We also have to think carefully about that information to assess what exactly it does and does not reveal about specific arts, artists, patrons, or audiences.


Gagliardi, Susan Elizabeth. “About Matching Objects and Images to Places.” In Mapping Senufo. Atlanta: Emory Center for Digital Scholarship, 2015–. (21 May 2015, updated 24 June 2016), accessed 22 September 2020.