Bocio (Vodun), Fon (Benin Republic/Dahomey), Nigeria, 20th c.
Wood, glass, beads, cowrie shells fly whisk, cloth, ceremonial substances, 12”
Gift of Jack Johnson Kimbrough
CAT: 1993 JK 87
The Fon reside in the Benin Republic in the western region of the African continent. They are ruled by Kings who create works of art to signify their connection to ancestral power. Commoners in the Fon community are also able to create or commission sculpture as a form of protection. This unique wooden figure is known as a Bocio (bow-chee-aw). Bocio are protective figures that embody the power of the ancestors. They are prescribed by priests and diviners and no two are alike. They are made in secrecy so that only the creator and owner know the composition and purpose of the figure. They typically contain powerful sacrificial materials such as blood but also oils and other substances in addition to shells, bones, and beads. They are bodily surrogates for their owners and most are created primarily as a proactive means of defense, when activated through ritual sacrificial offering that is rubbed on as a patina. This particular Bocio represents a female diviner who is cradling a wrapped figure. She has medicine bags attached to her skirt and is possibly in the process of healing the subject. The female nurturing and protective power as well as the medicine will enable the owner of the Bocio to deflect any harm that may come to them or their family.
Source: LaGamma, Alisa. Art and Oracle: African Art and Rituals of Divination. New York: NY: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000