Effigies : African Figure
This wooden sculpture of a man is a typical figure of the Baule tribe, a group located in the central Ivory Coast of Western Africa. Baule people believe in various types of spirits, which have high status and power over human beings and can interfere with the lives of the Baule. The asie usu are nature spirits that can disrupt economic production with destructive and malicious behavior. The Blolo bian (spirit husband) and Blolo Bla (spirit wife) are believed to be lover spirits from one’s previous life, before one was born on Earth. The spirit lovers interfere with one’s fertility and relationships out of spite and jealousy that their loved one found a second love on Earth. The Baule believe that making wooden sculptures of the nature and lover spirits in human form can tame their disruptive behaviors by providing them with a figure to “sit” on. Providing this landing place is thought to allow the spirit to act for the benefit of the owner of the figure. The figure here is probably a Blolo bian; the scarification, elongated neck, long arms, and hands resting on the abdomen are characteristic features of a spirit husband figure, representing the ideal man. In the Baule representation of spirits as human figures, we can see how power and status can be linked in sculptural representations of the human form.