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Object Name: Nature spirits (asie usu)
Culture: Baule peoples
Place of Origin: Côte d’Ivoire
Date/Era: 19th century
Dimensions: H (female): 45.7 cm; H (male): 48.3 cm
Credit Line: Fowler Museum at UCLA. Gift of George G. Frelinghuysen.
Accession Number: X67.2033ab
Baule figures carved as pairs by a single artist usually represent nature spirits known as asie usu, residents of the dangerous world beyond the village. They may arbitrarily possess a person, disturbing the social order and compelling him or her to act in abnormal ways. To restore balance, figures may be carved as intermediaries to acknowledge the spirits. This male/female spirit pair embodies the physical qualities most admired by Baule people: strong, youthful bodies, elegant hairstyling, and scarification marks. Asie usu figures may acquire an encrusted surface from repeated offerings of sacrificial substances.
Source: Marla C. Berns, World Arts, Local Lives: The Collections of the Fowler Museum at UCLA. Fowler Museum, Los Angeles, 2014.