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Ivory Coast

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10. Baule seated figure, Ayse osu, Cote d’Ivoire,
wood, 13 1/2" (33 cm)
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10. Baule seated figure, Ayse osu, Cote d’Ivoire, wood, 13 1/2" (33 cm)
  When I began to research this piece to write about it I was confronted with two possibilities, one being Ayse Osu, a representation of a bush spirit, or blolo bla, a female spouse from the other world. After some reflection it is my opinion based on the lack of any residue of sacrifices on the surface that this figure is a blolo bla, or spirit-wife. Oftentimes in African scholarship a fair amount of judgements regarding the use of a figure is based on such observations and facts. Not being an expert on the Baule I am certainly willing to admit that my choice may be a mistake! There is a similar piece carved by the same hand in Europe that is called an Asye Osu, or bush spirit- I have not seen it so I am unfamiliar with its surface.
  This being the case, the Baule have a belief that all adults have a spirit wife or spirit husband (the male statue is called blolo bian) in the other world. This spouse can aid or complicate life on whim or caprice, and so the Baule each keep a statue of the opposite sex for the spouse to reside in, and spend one night a week with it, and otherwise feed, pamper and generally treat it like a living spouse. Often times of exquisite beauty, these statues are extremely private and are not meant for public viewing. They usually only become public after the death of their owners. In western psychological terms one could consider this as a person searching for their other half- the male or female element we all carry within us as our compliment and alter ego. In any case I find it a beautiful and beautifully holistic concept.

Collection of Charlie and Blanche Derby

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