|Title||Baule male figure|
|Collection||Artworld: Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts|
|Description||This standing figure shows an intricately carved coiffure, delicate facial features, and large ears. The long feet and muscular calves are in contrast with the slender body. The figure is looking away slightly to the left with a cupped hand posture. Cicatrisation scars are visible on either side of the eyes and three at the base of the back of the neck. The left ear has been damaged and repaired, and an old split down the right side of the head and body, has been filled.|
|Description Source||Helen Coleman|
|Id Number Current Accession||215|
|Location Creation Site||Côte d’Ivoire|
|Location Current Repository||Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts|
|Subject||sculpture in the round, figurine, human figurine, male|
|Measurements||115 x 395 x 60 mm|
|Credit Line||Male figure. West Africa, Ivory Coast: Baule. 19th/20th century. Wood. h. 37.5 cm. Acquired 1960. UEA 215|
|Context||Ancestor figures are never carved among the Baule; the ancestors, who are a powerful force, instead receive sacrifice on special stools and chairs. Figures (waka sona, wooden persons) like this one are the locus for sprit spouses. The Baule believe that everyone had a spouse in the other world before they were born into this one (see Vogel, 1981: 73). Men would have a blolo bla, a 'spirit wife', while women have a blolo bian, a 'spirit husband'. The diviner may advise anyone who has difficulties with marriage, fertility, etc. to commission a figure of a spirit spouse and set up a shrine for it, as such problems are attributed to a restive spirit spouse who must be appeased. The sprit itself may indicate to the diviner, the client and the carver the details of posture, scarification and coiffure, and even which tree should be used in making its figure.
This statuette, with cupped hands held loosely in front, is unusual in posture and proportions. Most Baule figures have the arms carved along the sides of the body, whether attached or free. The normal ‘African' scale is one of large head, long body and short legs (see UEA 684) - yet here, the head is rather smaller than the Baule standard, and the body is considerably shorter than the legs. The slender build and exquisite finish give an impression of other-worldly beauty which is heightened by the naturalistic, yet serenely idealised heads with its minimal tribal scarification. The coiffure is marvellously detailed; the long legs with muscular calves and astonishingly long feet may embody a canon of male beauty. The ears are shown larger than the norm - perhaps it is not too fanciful to suggest that this spirit husband's pose was intended to convey an aura of receptive, even sympathetic attention.
A male figure, illustrated by Meauzé (1968: 68-69), may be by the same carver, since it too is unorthodox in attitude and proportions; if so, we have here one of only two known works by the hand of a Baule master.
An old split down the right side of the head and body has at some time been filled; this serves only to accentuate the original poignant twist to the head.
|Context Source||Margret Carey. In: Steven Hooper (ed.), 1997, Catalogue to the Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Collection. University of East Anglia.|
|Context Title||Published Catalogue|
|Relation Referenced By||Margret Carey|
|Relation References||Vogel, S. (ed). 1981. For Spirits and Kings: African Art from the Tishman Collection, New York.
Meauze, P. 1968. African Art. London.
|Rights||Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, UEA, Norwich, 2002. All Rights reserved|
|Work Type||male figure|