By Christopher D. Roy
University of Iowa

Côte d’Ivoire; Baule artist

Asie usu (nature spirit) pair


H. 39 cm (15")

University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art, The Stanley Collection of African Art, X1986.527

For an adult in Africa success in a traditional community is measured by his or her ability to find a partner, raise a family, and provide for the children that guarantee that the family will survive through the generations.  Every adult is beset by concerns about the health of her children, his ability to secure and hold a means to earn a living, about his own health and that of his partner, and about the many uncertainties that we must confront throughout our lives.  For a Baule man or woman to fail to marry, bear numerous children, and provide for his family is considered a serious problem. She may visit a diviner who may prescribe the carving of a figure that represents the spouse s/he had in the spirit world before birth.  The spirit spouse takes possession of the figure, and care and attention as well as prayers and offerings are lavished on it to please it so that it will permit its real-world spouse to fulfill his gender role.  This figure pair represents the female larger than the male, and so it may have belonged to a Baule man.