Wooden carving of a spirit figure (blolo bian)

Baule, probably late 19th century AD
From the Ivory Coast, West Africa

This carving of the Baule people of the Ivory Coast is of a type sometimes referred to as an 'ancestor figure'. In fact, it represents a male spirit lover, blolo bian who would be partnered by a female spirit lover, blolo bla. They are frustrated partners left behind in the world of the spirits when people are born into this world. Each man and woman is believed to have a spirit double or spouse that resides in the other world. If the spirit becomes angry, the human spouse commissions a carving to receive offerings. Cloths and jewellery are used to decorate the figure which is oiled regularly. The Baule believe that beauty helps promote fertility and avoid marital problems so the blolo bian has an elaborate hairstyle with intricate textured designs.

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More information

Bibliography

J. Perani and F.T. Smith, The visual arts of Africa: gen (Prentic Hall, New Jersey, 1998)

Dimensions

Height: 55.000 cm

Museum number

AOA 1956.Af27.30

EAF7793

Gift of Mrs Webster Plass

Location

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