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Senufo African art that inspired Picasso comes to France

media A helmet is on display during the exhibition 'Senufo - The Art and Identity in West Africa' at the Musee Fabre in Montpellier, France on November 27, 2015. AFP PHOTO / PASCAL GUYOT

It inspired visionary artists like Pablo Picasso and Fernand Léger, now Senufo art comes to France. The Fabre museum in Montpellier presents “Senufo: Art and Identity in West Africa”, to the public from November 28th, 2015 to March 6th, 2016.

It's the first large-scale exhibition of the art of the Senufo people of West Africa to go on display in France.

“Senufo: Art and Identity in West Africa”, explores the origins of the people who created it in new ways.

The people known to the Western world as Senufo, live in a triangular region that comprises Côte d’Ivoire, Mali and Burkina Faso.

Although they share a common language and culture, they don't necessarily refer to themselves as Senufo, even if the Western world calls them that.

Senufo is like France’s francophonie term, which refers to a linguistic speaking community.

Yet the name Senufo was imposed on them by French colonial officials. When their art made it to Europe in the late 1880s, the name was imposed on it as well.

In the exhibition, complementary male and female statues abound. Masks can be seen in serene or terrifying postures, with horns and tusks curving around glaring eyes.

Much of the art is abstract with strong aesthetics. Its distinctive cubist shapes and masks influenced well-known artists like Pablo Picasso, who dabbled in African art for two years during his African period.

Picasso and other key figures like Henri Matisse contributed to the spread of interest in African-influenced modernism among the avant-garde in the United States.

Senufo art is widely recognized as the distinctive work of a particular culture and as powerful abstract art in its own right.

The exhibit is currently on display at the Fabre museum in Montpellier until March next year.

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