Vintage Baule Mother Breastfeeding Spirit Mate Statue | 14"
Baule statues and figures are the most known and collected tribal art in Africa. This is due to the fineness and detail of the carvings. This figure is one of a class of such objects, very common and well established among the Baule, they call "blolo bian". We refer to them as "spirit mates" or "spirit spouses". The Baule believe that every person in this world has a mate/spouse in the spirit world (men in this world have a corresponding "wife" in the spirit world; women in this world have a "husband") . That spirit mate has the power to intervene with the gods in the spirit world on behalf of his mate/spouse in this world for the benefit/advantage of the mate in this world.
Every Baule person is able to resolve any of his/her concerns/problems by beseeching the involvement of his/her mate in the spirit world. If a person has a dispute with a neighbor, a financial difficulty, a health problem, any obstacle of any nature at all in his/her life, it can be addressed by one's spirit mate. The Baule person has this spouse from his birth but may not actually become aware of their existence until they have reached a certain age. But the physical effigy representing this spouse would not be carved until that person feels the need to relate more closely to that spirit mate. This would commonly occur on the advice of a tribal healer, who would have been consulted for help whenever the Baule person would be confronting a situation with which he/she was having a significant problem. At that point he/she would approach a wood carving artist, of which there are many who are very accomplished in most Baule villages. The carver would ask the client to describe the mate to be represented. In the same way that we would dream of our perfect match so does the Baule client describe his/her mate to be carved.
Once the Baule person has the object he/she keeps it with him throughout his/her life. He/she talks to it, maybe sleeps with it, even devoting certain days to sleeping with it instead of his/her human mate (it is likely that every human couple would each have his/her own spirit mate though both the human husband and human wife would have no relationship or even awareness of his/her mate's spirit mate: spirit mates are intensely personal, not shared in any way with anyone else.) At any point where the Baule individual would continue to have a problem he/she would return to the tribal healer who might suggest that the problem would require that the petitioner concentrate more time and effort with his/her spirit spouse.
These figures are such an important part of Baule life they are common and widely available. Normally, no Baule person would give up his/her spirit mate figure for sale unless the family would sell it upon the person's death; they are such a personal object that no family would consider it to be worth keeping. Also, it may also be determined by the owner that it no longer serves the purpose for which it was carved in which case he/she would want to replace it.
This figure is estimated to be over 50 years old.
This figure measures:
3" x 3.75" x 14"