Power Figure (Mbra)

Power Figure (Mbra) ©LCVA

Baule culture
Côte-d'Ivoire
wood, animal horn, cotton, plant fiber
25" x 8" x 7.5"
1999.075
Gift of Donna and Thomas L. Brumfield, Jr.

The Baule create elegant statues and masks, but they also create purposefully ugly objects meant to be terrifying and grotesque. This monkey figure (Mbra) is one such example. Made for a trance divination cult, Mbra, who seeks to insure success in war, is intended to appear wild and aggressive. Owned only by trance diviners and certain families, the Mbra resides hidden outside under a shelter. The sculpture is said to feed on sacrifices brought from the bush and poured all over the figure, leaving it filthy and encrusted (note the residue and tiny feathers remaining on the head). The cup typically holds an egg as an offering. The monkey figure shown here is a particularly strange example - appearing equally human and baboon rather than solely a monkey.

Bibliography: Vogel, 1997, pp.41, 224-238, 295.