DescriptionBaule (Côte d'Ivoire, Western Africa)
Blolo bian (spirit wife) female figure
Height: 12-1/2 inches
The function of Baule wooden figures can be determined by examining the condition of their surfaces. The clean surface of this carving suggests it is a spirit spouse. This type of figure is fondled, rubbed and treated tenderly. They are even "slept" with periodically. This treatment results in a clean, lustrous surface as evidenced in this spirit wife, or blolo bian.
Individuals with marital or fertility problems may be advised by a diviner to acquire a wooden image representing the husband of wife that everyone has in the other world. These spirit mates may sometimes interfere maliciously with their earthly counterparts, and the wooden figures provide a means of contact through which the spirit spouses can be appeased.
Another major category of Baule figures are nature spirits, which reside in natural phenomena like trees and rocks, and may cause misfortune such as crop failure of sickness. While these figures are similar in form to spirit lover figures, they are not fondled, and receive repeated offerings of eggs, blood and other substances which leave them incrusted and dirty.
This figure typifies one variation of Baule carving style, and its elegant form and skilled carving demonstrates the carver's exceptional talent. The piece is in excellent condition, with minor wear.
Estimate: $2,000 - $3,000.
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