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Female Figure (Blolo Bla or Asie Usu)

17 1/8 x 3 1/8 x 3 in. (43.5 x 7.9 x 7.6 cm)

Unknown, Baule
Ivoirian

Object Type: Sculpture
Medium and Support: Wood
Credit Line: Marion Stratton Gould Fund
Accession Number: 1969.33
Location: Currently on view
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The Baule believe each person has a spirit spouse (husband=blolo bian, wife=blolo bla). The presence of a troublesome, jealous spirit spouse can result in illness or misfortune. A carving can be commissioned to ensure the spirit’s protection and good will. These extremely private sculptures are kept hidden in the owner’s bedroom where they are attended to and anointed with oil. Raised scarification patterns represent Baule standards of beauty and identity, while their contained posture and introspective expression reflect social virtues of tradition and decorum.

Bush spirit figures (asye usu) are carved when an uncivilized bush spirit forms an attachment to a human and makes trouble in their life. Asye usu can only be appeased by a sculpted figure kept enshrined and placated with offerings that, over time accumulate in a thick crust. This surface (often cleaned off when the sculpture is sold) is the only way to distinguish between a spirit spouse and a bush spirit, as in all other ways they look the same. For this reason, it is impossible to know if this figure is a spirit spouse or a bush spirit figure.
[Gallery label text, 2009]

Provenance
Ludwig Bretschneider (dealer), Munich; purchased from him by the Gallery in 1969

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