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Baule Wooden Sculpture of a Monkey Holding a Bowl

SKU X.1036
Circa 20 th Century AD
Medium Wood
Origin Central Ivory Coast


The Baule believe personal failure, misfortune and sickness are due to supernatural causes that are hidden from common human perception. In order to find out the underlying reasons, a diviner (wunnzueyifwe, “revealer of causes”) must be consulted. Often, the diviner uses sculptures and other such objects as mediums of contact between the physical world and the realm of the supernatural. Whether it is ancestors, deities or bush spirits that are being contacted the basic principal is the same, that the representation of a spirit in the form of a statue must be venerated and treated in a prescribed manner. Baule monkey figures generally have their hands open or else hold a small bowl for sacrificial offerings, as is the case with this powerful example. Libations of food, milk, and blood were likely once placed within the bowl as offerings to appease malevolent spirits. It is also likely that the diviner placed medicinal concoctions of his own secret formula inside the bowl as well to influence a particular spirit. This monkey is depicted with a fair amount of realism. The body is intentionally emaciated, especially evident in the arched back, giving the work a primordial or mythical quality. However, the head is represented in a somewhat abstract manner, particularly the square shape of the jaw and the deeply recessed, almond-shaped eyes. Instead of making the monkey seem less real, these features accentuate its power; heightening its mystical aspect in such a way one almost feels in the presence of a supernatural entity.


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