Fine Baule Figure – Blolo Bla – Côte d’Ivoire / Ivory Coast
Wood. Cm 30,3 high (11.93″).
The Baule believe that, in the otherworld called Blolo, all human beings were married before birth. These spirit spouses called blolo bian, meaning ‘spirit husband’, and blolo bla, meaning ‘spirit wife’, follow them into their human lives by way of human-figure sculptures called waka sran, or ‘person in wood’. Baule people carve these figures to represent their otherworld spouses and they believe that these spirits have influence over their human lives.
Spirit figures are intended to serve a single individual and have private shrines in the home dedicated to them. When a Baule person undergoes some form of distress, be it emotional, physical or spiritual, he or she might consult a komien, or diviner. Divination usually reveals that one’s spirit spouse has become jealous or angry and is the cause of such distress. Oftentimes, the proposed solution is to devote a shrine, called tata, in which the figure becomes the centre and its vengeful spirit can be appeased.
The Baule believe spirit figures can bring good fortune to all areas of life. However, it is also believed that any good fortune the owner receives reduces the amount of good fortune that’s available to everyone else. With that in mind, owners keep all personal possessions and sculptures out of sight in closed sleeping rooms. Although these figures aren’t considered to be sacred objects, they were intended to only be used and openly looked at by the individual owner. If the owner chooses to show these sculptures, surreptitious glancing, called nian klekle, is the only acceptable way for Baule people to view these sculptures when displayed as art.
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