Blo Bian (Spirit Spouse)

Blolo Bian, (Spirit wife (blolo bla), Baule people, Ivory Coast. wood, plain with oiled patina, 14”h x 2 ½”w x 2”. Gift of Lee Bronson. Cat. 2001 LB23  

 

The Baule of the Ivory coast believe that every husband and wife have a Spirit Spouse or Blobo Bla (female) and Blobo bian (male). A spirit spouse comes to an individual in their dreams to guide and protect them as they face daily problems. When an individual faces an obstacle or enters into a new phase of their life and are looking for guidance, they may visit a diviner and request that their spirit spouse materialize as a “person of wood”. Once the sculpture is carved in an ideal form, the figure will be kept in s shrine in the family home and periodically cared for by being fed and anointed with oil to open a channel of communication for the individual in need of guidance. 

 

The spirit spouse takes human form. They typically range from 8-10” in height, are carved from wood, contain remnants of white chalk and have a glossy surface as a result of numerous libations with oil. The figures are carved to adhere to a Baule aesthetic, which is determined by the spirit, owner and diviner.  The figure featured here has an elongated tubular shape with raised scarification, with tapered arms that frame the abdomen. The face features almond shaped eyes, additional scarification with pouting lips. The cylindrical emphasis on the body continues in the legs to create a strong stable base to the sculpture. The coiffure is swept back in a series of striations mimicking a plaiting of the hair. The scarification continues along the back of the neck and body of the figure. The intricate geometric scarifications patterns suggests the spirit and owner believed that scarification enhanced the beauty of the spirit, perhaps to ensure protection and guidance for the owner. 

 

Source:

Vogel, Susan. Baule: African Art/Western Eyes. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, New Haven, 1997.

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