By Carla Herling
Drake University (formerly University of Iowa)

GuineaBaga peoples

Elek (shrine object)

Wood, brass upholstery tacks

L. 80 cm (31")

University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art, The Stanley Collection, X1986.541

The Baga were also able to control the well-being of the family through the use of figures called elek, which was located on a shrine in a dark corner of the family home.  There they received periodic offerings of chicken blood and the prayers of the family.  At the harvest the first grains of rice were offered to the elek to thank the spirit it embodied for an abundant harvest.  The openings in the head were filled with horns that were in turn stuffed with magical ingredients that provided spiritual protection for the lineage.