Glove puppet | Sogow

Head of a glove puppet, 1950 - 1986

About the object

This is a depiction of a rooster, its elongated beak is movable and curved. A cock's comb adorns its head, which merges into a powerful, spiral-shaped headdress with openwork carving. The beak is adorned with red and black stripes, the head is black, the headdress is painted red on the outer serrations and black and yellow inside. The colours are partly faded, the object seems to have been used frequently. A movable handle has been attached to the lower end of the head.
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This rod puppet belongs specifically to the group of artefacts known as Sogow kun, or "animal heads". They represent various bush animals that feature in numerous proverbs and legends and to which certain character traits are ascribed. They appear in public performances of satirical comedy and plays involving facial expressions based on the content of these animal stories and in which people can also be characterised according to the animal traits. Their function is, therefore, both slightly moralising and entertaining at the same time. According to Arabic sources, dance and theatre using masks and figures in southern Mali can be traced back to the 14th century. It is still widespread today, but the ritual integration into the agricultural cycle was secondary to entertainment, amusement and instruction. Current everyday situations and problems are addressed, for example, generational conflicts, the relationship between men and women, political events and more besides. Social ideals are presented to the audience, information and instruction is imparted. Social and technological changes are reflected in the motifs and design of various objects. Modern everyday appliances and machines, such as wristwatches and cars, are also incorporated in the repertoire. Gloss paint has the effect of making the figures and masks shine much more colourfully and vividly than traditional pigments. Translation: Timothy Connell

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