Baule statue

Baule statue, Statue representing a female figure, hands resting on her belly. Red patina.

Ivory Coast, Wood

Height: 37 cm.

Provenance: collection Paris, France

-The Baule or Baoulé /ˈbaʊˌleɪ/ (Baule: Baule [ba.u.le]; French: baoulé [bawle]) are a Akan people and one of the largest ethnicities in Côte d’Ivoire. The Baoulé are traditionally farmers who live in the centre of Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), in a French braid shaped region (the Baoule “V”) between the rivers Bandama and N’Zi. This area broadly encompasses the regions around the cities of Bouaké and Yamoussoukro. The Baoulé have come to play a relatively important role in the recent history of Côte d’Ivoire: the State’s first President, Félix Houphouët-Boigny, was a Baoulé; additionally, since the Ivorian cocoa boom of the 1960-1970s, the Baoulé have also become one of the most widespread ethnicities throughout the country, especially in the Southern forests (the “Low Coast”) where they are amongst the most numerous planters of cocoa, rubber, and coffee and sometimes seem to outnumber the local native ethnic groups.


The Baoulé people are talented in African art. Their sculptures are renowned for their refinement, form diversity and the labor they represent. The sculptures do not only include face masks and human figurines, but also include a great variety of work in gold, bronze, and ivory.

Many Baoulé art objects are restricted to be seen only by the individual for whom they were made or by a specific group of people. They are often considered to be powerful spiritual objects. The most powerful spiritual objects are the men’s sacred masks, bo nun amuin. This mask is a boxy helmet mask representing a menacing animal with bared teeth. Viewing the mask is restricted to men. If a woman or child sees the mask they risk serious injury or death. It is danced in times of trouble to protect the village and at important men’s funerals. When the bo nun amuin mask is danced it can become very wild and violent. The spirit may chase the men through the village or wreak havoc by destroying things in its path.

Another important art object in Baoulé culture is the blolo bla and blolo bian spirit spouse figures. These sculptures are private objects made for an individual to represent their spirit spouse. Each person has a spirit spouse from the other world, which they were married to before they were born into this world. People make offerings of food and money to their spirit spouse figures to keep them happy because they can influence their relationship with their earthly spouse or other earthly relationships and personal endeavors.

Masks amongst the Baoulé people correspond to several types of dances: the goli, the mblo, the bonu amuen, and the gba gba.[2] The Bonu Amuen is a dance to protect the village from threats and it appears at the commemorations of the deaths of notables. The Baoulé wore a wooden helmet that stands for a buffalo. The type of masks used during the Bonu Amuen are known as “gods of the bush” masks which mostly sit on the forehead of the dancer. These masks depict horned animal heads such as the antelope and buffalo. They are worn with metal ankle bracelets and a raffia cosutme. The snout and/or muzzle of these masks have teeth, representing their belief that a strong animal would defend them.[3] The gba gba is worn at the funerals of women during the harvest season. It commemorates beauty and age. Goli masks can be worn for either entertainment gatherings and/or for the funeral of the high-ranking men of the village.[2] These masks are commonly used in rituals to ward of evil, and cleanse the village of witchcraft.[4] Mblo is a performance category that utilizes face masks in solo dances and skits. These masks resemble refined human faces to portray notable people in the tribe. Mblo masks are one of the Baoule tribe’s oldest art forms.[2]

-From Wikipedia

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