Kolotielema Dagnogo

Fono blacksmith and sculptor, c. 1915–1995
Poundiou, Côte d‘Ivoire

Kolotielema Tuo was his original Senufo name as it was written on his birth certificate issued to him in 1985. He was however known by his Malinke name Kolotielema Dagnogo. Born in Taléré, he was a blacksmith belonging to the Fono group, as had his father. Before he settled in Poundiou (20 kilometers east of Boundiali), he worked as a blacksmith in a number of villages in the region, among them Zangaha (12 years), Fononlara (2 years), Kapyala (3 years), and Ouazomon (2 years). While in Fononlara he watched the master carver Karnigi Coulibaly (ca. 1890–1970) as he carved figures. He noted that: 

“When I came to Fononlara, I saw Karnigi carve. After I returned to Poundiou I sat down and sought to carve as he had, for there was no one else carving for me to observe.” (Kolotielema Dagnogo, 1993)

In 1975, Kolotielema Dagnogo carved a number of objects for Karl-Heinz Krieg, so that Krieg could document his style of carving. A special feature of Dagnogo’s carving is the relatively small scale of the faces worked on his figures. The sculpted figures are shown with traditional Senufo coiffures in the shape of pigtails worn during an earlier time by men and women. In his later carvings he separated the feet from the round supporting base.

Kolotielema Dagnogo with a figure that he carved. On his right shoulder he carries an adze, the symbol of a wood carver. Behind him are old furnaces used to smelt iron in the past. Photo: Karl-Heinz Krieg, Poundiou (Region of Boundiali), 1974

Male figure carved by Kolotielema Dagnogo. Photo: Karl-Heinz Krieg, Poundiou (Region of Boundiali), 1974


Female figure collected 1976 in Kounoumon (Region of Boundiali, Côte d'Ivoire). It was carved 1970 by Kolotielema Dagnogo. The owner was a Balafon player Sedion Chomman. Wood with red coloring, remains of Kola nut offering on the mouth, H. 26 cm

Hamburgisches Museum for Ethnology, No. 76.52:5, illustrated in Out of Africa – Ancestors, Spirits and Gods, p.63, Ill. 53, male figure
Brooklyn Museum, Accession number 2011.4.8, female figure, described in the Brooklyn Museum catalog as having been carved by Zanga Kone in Kolia


Private notes taken in the field, Karl-Heinz Krieg

Text: Helen Krieg and Daniel Mato, PhD