About the Selected Work of Art
- Restorative Healing Exhibition
- Spirit Spouse
- Baule people, Ivory Coast (no date period indicated)
- According to the background information, this is an H 12” Spirit figure, possibly Spirit Spouse. One of the beliefs of the Baule of the Ivory Coast is that there is a Spirit Spouse or Blobo bian (male) and Blobo Bla (female) for every husband and wife, respectively. They guide and protect people, and when a woman or man faces troubles and obstacles, they can visit a diviner and ask for their spirit spouse to materialize as a “person of wood.”
This statue has attracted me with its soothing and supportive energy. This is a stylized sculpture that portrays a woman with emphasized head and eyes, which are disproportionally big compared with other parts of the body. The Baule of the Ivory coast worship these figures, get support and guidance from them, keep them in a shrine in the family home, and care for them by feeding and anointing with oil. This Spirit Spouse is 12 inches tall, but even at this size, it looks powerful and makes one flutter. There is always inexplicable energy in such statues, but it is felt very well in this one.
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As mentioned above, this sculpture is carved out of wood, so it has a deep dark brown color. Certain parts of the woman’s body, including the eyebrows, nose and lips, navel, breasts, and shoulders, have a much lighter and even coppery hue, so it can be assumed that the Spirit Spouse’s owners often used to rub them. The figure stands on a small plinth base, having its tapered arms to the sides of the abdomen and almond-shaped eyes closed. There are some neck rings and scarification on the cheeks. The Spirit Spouse has beautifully arching eyebrows, a straight nose, plump lips, and transverse and linear carved coiffure that mimics a plaiting. Apart from the checks, there is also scarification on the back of the neck and along the body of the sculpture. There are no sharp corners, and the surface of the figure seems smooth and glossy. However, if this sculpture had a different texture, for example, rough and sharpy, the Spirit Spouse would probably lose its calmness and charm and become scary and terror-instilling.
The statue is motionless: the woman froze, closing her eyes, and she breathes with calmness, serenity, and harmony with herself and nature. This sculpture is round and three-dimensional, which allows me to feel the figure’s energy. All elements of the work are evenly distributed, and even the disproportionally big head does not take all the attention. As mentioned above, the figure is in one color (deep brown), and its visual impact may be described as soothing and reminding of nature. For me, the focal point within the work is the woman’s closed eyes: they are almond-shaped and big, and the fact that she does not keep them open means that she does not expect any danger to approach her; she is in harmony, and this is the effect she also has on me.
Overall, the light is evenly distributed, but the space where the figure is exhibited makes a difference. In the dark hall of the museum, the sculpture seems to be more mysterious and dramatic, and there is a feeling that she is about to open her eyes and tell a secret inaccessible to the human mind. Dim and warm lighting is used to illuminate the work, and the dark walls and similar figures placed adjacent to the Spirit Spouse add mystery. I know that some sculptures are better seen at a specific angle, but when I tried to view the figure from different heights and distances, the best way was to stand right in front of it and at eye level. Overall, I can say that this is a unique and impressive sculpture that is carved in an ideal form, with all its elements being in harmony. I would love to purchase this statue so that it shares its wisdom and calmness with me.