Old Baule slingshot, on stand
10″ (25.4 cm) This is an authentic slingshot, having been made for use and used probably by a young man to hunt small birds and animals. The face carved into it represents a spirit intended to protect the hunter and ensure a successful hunt. Slingshots are carried by young boys for hunting birds and bats in the forest, sources of protein in places where that is often scarce. However, dangers abound, such as snakes, dangerous insects, and the rare predator. The slings are made, usually, by the father of the boy (though more wealthy families will commission one from a professional carver.) The carvings are talismanic, meant to protect the boy. Most carvings are of deities or spirits, often woodland spirits, which are always female and often red. European nail polish is a favored source of the red color. Masks abound, sometimes with the entire costume used in dance. There is a feeling that the mask carvings function best as protectors if they are facing the source of danger, and “right-side up,” rather than upside down. For that reason, a sling will very often have two masks, facing in opposite directions; two masks, one oriented up and one down, or both. There may be up to eight masks, “to cover all the bases”. Other subjects for the carving enhance hunting power or the chances of success. These include guns (or many types), soldiers, Christian religious symbols, or powerful animals (elephants, etc.) Occasionally, unusual subjects such as soccer players or soccer trophies will appear. The variety is virtually endless. The sling portion is usually rubber cut from old inner tubes. It almost never survives the stress of transport or the dry climate here.