Kresge Art Museum
African Art: Western Eyes

Blolo bian, male spirit spouse figure

Baule peoples, Côte d'Ivoire
Baule peoples, Côte d'Ivoire
20th century
Wood, cloth, metal, chain
Gift of Jean-Pierre Diane, 65.151
According to Baule belief, all human beings had spouses in the other world before they were born. These spirit spouses may influence their human partners in this world. After consulting a religious specialist, a person may commission a local carver to create a sculptural representation of their spirit spouse. The Kresge sculpture represents a male spirit spouse (blolo bian). The erect bearing of the figure connotes a morally upright person. The open eyes and high forehead suggest intelligence and awareness. The muscular arms and legs signify the healthy life style of a hard worker. Although the artist rendered the details and proportions of the figure with great care to insure that he would capture Baule ideals of physical beauty and moral virtue, the figure was not meant for public display. These sculptures were kept in the bedroom of the owner and were the focus of private religious devotions.