Fono blacksmith and sculptor, 1935–2011
Poundiou and Ziédougou, Côte d’Ivoire
Sécondjéwin Dagnogo, also known as Sécondjéwin Tuo was the son of a Fono blacksmith living in Poundiou in the vicinity of the larger city of Boundiali. His father was a well-known drummer who was also known as a carver of drums and wooden sounding bars for the balafon (xylophone). During the time his father was doing his military service, Sécondjéwin Dagnogo and his brother worked in their uncle’s blacksmith forge by pumping the bag-bellows. Sécondjéwin also worked under a number of other smiths learning the craft in the region around Boundali in the villages of Mirimiri, Pondougou, Gbémou, Nafoun and Fonondara, before he settled in the village of Ziédougou near Niempurgué. Here he had two wives and a number of children. In 1980 he returned to his home village of Poundiou where he became head of his extended family. Sécondjéwin Dagnogo was especially interested in all things mechanical and technical and earned additional money by repairing radios, clocks and guns.
“During my time in these villages I was interested in technical work, I watched every time someone made something or when someone carved something out of wood. And then one day when I wanted to make something, I succeeded. I was not very strong, but when I saw a job to do, I knew how to do it.“ (Sécondjéwin Dagnogo, 1993)
In 1975, Sécondjéwin Dagnogo carved a number of different objects for Karl-Heinz Krieg, such as figures, masks, spoons and heddle pulleys. He said that his greatest influence was his uncle on his mother’s side, the master carver Karnigi Coulibaly from Fonondara.
Sécondjéwin Dagnogo was also an initiate in the men's Poro society located in the "sacred-forest" sharing his knowledge of Poro and its history during numerous conversations with Karl-Heinz Krieg.
For the special red-black color scheme that decorated his carvings Sécondjéwin first covered the surface with a red sap (pigment) from the inner skin of a tree root that was rubbed over the figure. After the figure had dried the sculpted details such as the lips, hands and bracelets were covered with shea-nut butter. To complete the coloring of the sculpture the entire figure was covered with mud containing organic materials from the bottom of a stream to give it an overall black color. However, the figural details previously covered with shea-nut butter now show a prominent red tint.
Using his adze Sécondjéwin Dagnogo cut a piece from the trunk of a tree and carved a mask from this fresh wood. As he carved the mask he rounded and smoothed it into a typical Fono style mask. However, he declared that though he worked as a Fono wood carver, he carved the back of the mask with a concave shape like a Kule carver. Sécondjéwin Dagnogo said he gave the mask this shape so that the mask better fits the face of the dancer. He commented that even Tiegama Silué from Nafoun rounded his carved Kpélie masks like a Kule. He summed this conversation by saying "each has his own way to carve".
As a prelude to funeral celebrations, the Fono dancers wore the tchèdjouhougué mask, an "ugly", anti-aesthetic mask whose appearance and dance caused people to laugh. It was followed by the dance of a kodaliyèhè, a "beautiful" mask whose appearance signaled the opening of the serious part of the funerary ceremonies (discussed and illustrated in: Kunst und Religion bei den Gbato-Senufo, Krieg and Lohse, 1981, pp. 83–84).
Private notes taken in the field, Karl-Heinz Krieg
Kunst und Religion bei den Gbato-Senufo, Krieg and Lohse, Hamburgisches Museum für Völkerkunde, 1981, pp. 83–84