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Male Spirit Spouse Figure (Blolo Bian)

Accession Number
1971/2.32

Title
Male Spirit Spouse Figure (Blolo Bian)

Artist(s)
Baulé

Artist Nationality
Baule (culture)

Object Creation Date
1920-1960

Medium & Support
wood, pigment

Dimensions
17 3/8 in x 5 in x 4 15/16 in (44.1 cm x 12.7 cm x 12.5 cm);17 3/8 in x 5 in x 4 15/16 in (44.1 cm x 12.7 cm x 12.5 cm)

Credit Line
Museum Purchase assisted by the Friends of the Museum of Art

Label copy
March 28, 2009
In Baule thought, the world of lived experience is intimately and forever intertwined with the blolo, a parallel world in which all humans have spirit spouses who can cause them harm if neglected. This figure was likely commissioned by a Baule woman to represent her otherworldly husband. To please the spirit and ensure his good favor, the figure must look beautiful, healthy, and prosperous—all qualities that the spirit may confer upon its earthly spouse.
The high crested coiffure and scarification patterns on this figure identify him as an honorable and productive member of village life, while the virtues of hard work and good health are reflected in his pronounced calves and elongated neck. In Baule eyes, as in most African societies, such marks of physical beauty are more than skin deep: they also represent the inner, moral excellence of an individual.
March 28, 2009
In Baule thought, the world of lived experience is intimately and forever intertwined with the blolo, a parallel world in which all humans have spirit spouses who can cause them harm if neglected. This figure was likely commissioned by a Baule woman to represent her otherworldly husband. To please the spirit and ensure his good favor, the figure must look beautiful, healthy, and prosperous—all qualities that the spirit may confer upon its earthly spouse.
The high crested coiffure and scarification patterns on this figure identify him as an honorable and productive member of village life, while the virtues of hard work and good health are reflected in his pronounced calves and elongated neck. In Baule eyes, as in most African societies, such marks of physical beauty are more than skin deep: they also represent the inner, moral excellence of an individual.

Subject matter
Baule men and women have figures like this carved for their “other-world” or spirit spouses in order to please them and ensure they will bring health and good fortune. Above all, spirits require these figures to be beautiful. The spirit determines how he/she should look by revealing him/herself in a dream, either to his/her human spouse, a diviner, or the figure’s carver. This figure’s scarification patterns, placid countenance, coiffure, long neck and robust calves are features of ideal beauty in Baule eyes.

Physical Description
Male figured seated on high-backed stool with hands resting on abdomen; symmetrical scarification patterns on cheeks and temples, also down center of forehead and at base of the nose. Coiffure is high crested and segmented. Figure wears sandals and necklace or amulet around neck. Figure has sheen to patina, pigmented deep brown in contrast to stool. Figure has bore hole in back between buttocks.

Primary Object Classification
Sculpture

Primary Object Type
figure

Collection Area
African

Rights
If you are interested in using an image for a publication, please visit http://umma.umich.edu/request-image for more information and to fill out the online Image Rights and Reproductions Request Form.

Keywords
blolo bian
figures (representations)
mediation
spirits (beings)
wood (plant material)

4 Related Resources

Second Grade Tour: Healthy Living
(Part of: Visit UMMA: Curricular Tour Descriptions for Teachers)
Second Grade: Healthy Living Tour    
(Part of: Docent Curricular Tours)
Math Activity: Proportion
(Part of: Math + Art Enrichment Activities)

& Author Notes

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