DescriptionLobi (Burkina Faso, Ghana or Côte d'Ivoire, Western Africa)
Bateba standing janus figure
Wood and metal
Height: 45-1/4 inches
Lobi figures that embody ancestral or other spiritual forces are known as bateba. They are kept in family shrines where they receive sacrificial applications of millet beer, chicken blood and other substances during appeals for spiritual intervention regarding health of family members, successful childbirth and ample rains during growing season.
Unlike practices among other West African peoples, the Lobi, generally speaking, do not train wood carvers. Rather, males handy with bladed implements carve the wooden shrine figures using adzes and knives. This unusual situation results in a great range in quality regarding these figures.
This large example presents two human figures, a male and a female, facing in opposing directions, commonly known as a janus configuration. While sometimes seen in Lobi carving, this janus configuration is distinctly uncommon. Considering the range of size and quality among Lobi figures, this is a very large, well-executed carving. The female is fully presented, with strongly carved face, prominent breasts and clearly delineated genitals. The other figure is actually only a head, presumably male, with no "male" body, but buttocks. Such anatomical oddities are not uncommon with Lobi imagery. The small offering bowl attached to the head is missing elements on one side. There is metal sheathing on both faces. The figure has been used as evidenced by residue from repeated applications of sacrificial libations.
African carvings are often differentiated by the adjectives "tough" and "sweet." This large, powerful sculpture is a fine example of "tough" African art.
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