|Circa 1900, Baule Tribe, Ivory Coast|
As this beautifully crafted standing female figure illustrates, Baule figures can be among the most elegant and carefully designed pieces in Africa. This piece, carved from a single piece of wood, shows an introverted but slightly expressive face and extremely detailed body features. It embodies a dignity of form and grace, and a provocative hand position which frames the protruding belly button.
While the Baule carve figures for a number of critically important uses, it is most likely that this dignified figure embodies a female spirit from the other world or blolo bla, an otherworldly spirit wife figure. Historically, these figures have been carved with a counterpart figure, an otherworldly husband. It has been believed that if these figures were well taken care of, that they would help their human partners in all areas of life. They also functioned as the home of a spirit to whom sacrifices were made and had to be placated with care, often forming a mirror for the onlooker to assist in corrective behavior.
It must be noted when existing scholarship is consulted that there may have been other possible functions for the figure. For example, asye usu figures (often elegantly carved standing male or female figures) were the abode of spirits associated with diviners, and bo usu sculptures were shrine figures (also elegant male or female figures) to which sacrifices were made. However, both of these types of figures, in contrast to this example, typically have eroded bases from being placed on shrines which are of earth, clay, and are often exposed to liquids, which erode the bases beneath the feet of the figures over time. This has no such erosion.
This Baule figure shows significant signs of age. The traces of naturally occurring encrustation and subtle areas of sediment in the grooves of the patina are evidence of decades of age and natural aging. The carving style and level of care and detail is also evident in pieces both used at the highest level of Baule society and made for the French colonials who sought the most finely carved, refined examples of carving from the talented Baule and helped foster the proliferation of the last century’s Baule carving tradition. The “western eye” also impacted material that Baule used for their own shrines once colonization began to take shape. It is most likely that the piece dates to the turn of the 20th century, circa 1900.
|Location of Origin: Africa|
|Medium/Materials: wood, glass beads, stain, encrustation from applied libations|
|Dimensions: 31.75 cm (h) 7.5 cm (w) x 7.5 cm (d); 12.5” (h) x 3” (w) x 3” (d)|
|Primary Classification: African Artwork, Ethnographic & Tribal Arts : African Art|
|Exhibition History:After being strictly vetted as authentic and antique by a committee of experts, this figure was exhibited at Parcours des Mondes, 2014, in Paris.|
Publication:“L Ame de le Afrique”, Diakonoff, Serge, Les Editions de L’Amateur, (Naef), page 118
Literature:Vogel, Susan, Baule: African Art Western Eyes, Yale University Press, 1997Phillips, Tom, Africa: The Art of a Continent, Prestel Press, 1997Jean-Baptiste Bacquart, The Tribal Arts of Africa, Thames & Hudson, 2002Ravenhill, P, “The Self and the Other: Personhood and Images Among the Baule, Cote D'Ivoire”, Univ of California Museum of Art, 1994
The Baule are one of the Akan peoples who moved west to the Ivory Coast more than 200 years ago and adopted sculptural and masking traditions from their neighbors, the Guro-Yaure and Senufo. The Baule represent one of the most important tribes of the Ivory Coast. (Ref: The Tribal Arts of Africa, JB Bacquart, “Baule”). Their name is testimony to their birth- according to legend, Queen Aba Pokou led her people on an exodus towards the gold-mining areas during the 18th century and had to cross a river where she was obliged to sacrifice her son to the river god, thus giving her people the name Bauli, ‘the son is dead’. During the 19th century, the queendom disintegrated due to internal conflicts and by the beginning of the 20th century, when the French colonials arrived, they found only a network of villages, headed by councils of venerated men.
|Provenance: upon request|
|Price:||Item has been sold.|
|Offered By:||Items for sale from dealers we worked with previously|
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