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Male Figure (Asie Usu [?])

This figure was most likely the physical manifestation of an alliance between an individual and an earth spirit (asie usu), one of the entities believed by the Baule to reside in trees, streams, mountains, and other natural settings. As a result of these alliances, those individuals may gain extraordinary powers, which may lead to their becoming diviners. Crusty surfaces on such figures result when sacrificial offerings of eggs, animal blood, and other organic materials are applied directly to the figures.

Nature-spirit figures are carved to reflect Baule ideals of beauty, since the Baule believe that a figure that is not beautiful may offend the spirit with which it is associated. On this figure, for example, an elaborate hairdo and facial scarification are features that have traditionally been related to Baule ideas about beauty.

Baule peoples, Côte d’Ivoire
Male Figure (Asie Usu [?])
Late 19th or early 20th century
Wood, incrustation
H. 17 in. (44.1 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, Raymond and Laura Wielgus Collection, 2000.134