Wooden figure ”Bateba phuwe”


Lobi people, Burkina Faso, 20th century, private collection from Netherlands.

The Lobi people live mainly in Burkina Faso, with smaller groups residing in Côte d’ivoire and Ghana. they are mainly farmers who sustain themselves growing millet, sorghum, peanuts, cotton and corn. They also raise livestock and will ocassionally hunt.

The name Lobi originates from two Lobiri (the language spoken by Lobi people) words: ”lou” (forest) and ”bi” (children), meaning literally, ”childern of the forest”. The Lobi are well documented for their animist beliefs. They believe that universe was created by a central almighty god (tangba or thangba yu), under which sit a number of deities (thila, singular thil). Under these thila are the other nature spirits, spirits of the bush (kontuossi or kontuorsi), after which human beings follow. Villagers pray to thila to gain wealth, cure illnesses but more importantly, to protect themselves from witchcraft and harm. However villagers cannot directly communicate with the thila. They must make use of altar based figures called bateba (means wooden carved figure) which act as intermediaries between the human world and the spirit world of the thila. A village diviner (thildaar), interprets the will of the spirit for the community. Interaction with these spirits commonly takes place in a domestic shrine room (thilduu), village shrine (dithil), and other places in nature inhabited by spirits. Lobi bateba figures have a wide degree of style and are made for a wide range of purposes. One main category is the bateba duntundara, statues that have the power to avert evil influences and the witchcraft (apotropaic statues). These include various sub-types as well.

One of them are the this small protection figure. Called as bateba phuwe, the ordinary bateba. Used to provide the owner with general protection from witchcraft. These figures can also have a variety of other functions, such as protection, good wealth, and to bring luck to the family. A figure stand upright with arms against her sides. Large head and round face with wide bulging eyes. Age-related heavy wear and signs of ceremonial use. Traces of libation and abrasion. Beautiful encrusted patina. Cracks and minor fractures. Size approx. 16,0cm x 4,5cm x 5,5cm. With the modern stand 19,0cm x 7,0cm.