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Diviner's Figures


1978.412.390 (Male)


1978.412.391 (Female)

These elaborate figurative sculptures were originally designed to serve as a diviner's primary asset. The level of their artistry directly affects their owner's ability to prophesize by seducing nature spirits and inducing them to divulge insights into the human condition. When used by Baule diviners, such works not only flatter the asye usu [spirits of the earth] but add to the theatrical spectacle of a public pronouncement of a divinatory revelation. — Art and Oracle

MMA Web Resources

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MMA Collection Database

"Diviner's Figures [Baule peoples; Côte d'Ivoire] (1978.412.390-.391)". In Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/ho/10/sfg/hod_1978.412.390-.391.htm (October 2006)

"Figures for a Trance Diviner: Couple." In Art and Oracle: Rituals of Divination. [online exhibition] New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000-. http://www.metmuseum.org/explore/oracle/figures01.html (May 2008)

Selected Web Resources Elsewhere

Published Resources

Links with shelf numbers refer to WATSONLINE, the online library catalog of the Museum. Photocopies of each source reference are available in the Goldwater Library. Certain electronic resources are accessible within the museum or with an approved remote connection.

  • Baule Statuary Art: Meaning and Modernization, by Philip L. Ravenhill; Beauty in the Eyes of the Baule: Aesthetics and Cultural Values, by Susan M. Vogel. (Working Papers in the Traditional Arts, 5-6) Philadelphia, c1980. [A W926 no. 5-6]
  • Boyer, Alain-Michel. Baule. Milan: 2007. [O5FB B79]
    • Specifically, "The plastic arts and divinatory rituals: the spirits of nature (asie usu) and diviner-dancers (komyen)," Pp. 32-38
  • LaGamma, Alisa. "Art and Oracle: Spirit Voices of Africa." [exhibition preview] African Arts, Vol. 33, no. 1 (Spring 2000), Pp. 52-69. (A A2583 v. 33 or Online)
  • Perspectives: Angles on African Art. New York, 1987. [O2 N489p]
    • Pp. 146-149, 153.
  • Ravenhill, Philip L. Dreams and Reverie : Images of Otherworld Mates Among the Baule, West Africa. Washington, 1996. [O5KB R22d]
    • Chapter 1, "The Meaning of Baule Statues," pp. 1-11.
  • Ravenhill, Philip P. The Self and the Other: Personhood and Images Among the Baule, Cote d'Ivoire. Los Angeles, 1994. [O5KB R22s]
  • Van Damme, Wilfried. Beauty in Context: Towards an Anthropological Approach to Aesthetics. Leiden, New York, 1996. [G9P V22]
    • "Beauty in Context (Part One): Aesthetic Preferences and Sociocultural Ideas Among the Baule and the Fang," pp. 205-213, "The Baule: Beauty and the Ideal Human Being," pp. 213-242.
  • Vogel, Susan Mullin. Baule: African Art/Western Eyes. New Haven, New York, 1997. [O5FB V87b]
    • Particularly "Trance Diviners of Asye Usu, and Mbra," pp. 221-239. (objects illustrated on p. 236)
  • Vogel Susan Mullin. “Baule Figure Sculpture: A Reinterpretation of Delafosse.” In Art in Africa: Reality and Perspectives in a Study of the History of African Arts. Modena, 1986, pp. 85-86. [O3 A77]

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