230448 - Old African Boli Bamana - Zoomorphic Sculpture - Mail.


Boli Bamana, Mali Zoomorphic Sculpture

This sculpture are is 23 cm x 20 cm, and is collected in 1952.

This cult object called Boli belongs to the cult of Komo (which promotes harvests, fertility and protects against witchcraft) widespread in eastern Mali and western Burkina Faso and once played an essential role in the life spiritual Bamana. These objects of power belong to male initiation associations whose members progress through a process of integration that spans decades to achieve understanding of the natural and spiritual worlds.

The main function of a Boli is to accumulate and control the natural life force called nyama for the spiritual benefit of the community. Used as altars or worn during dance performances, they are intricate creations created from esoteric ingredients.

Boli are composed of a wooden "core" wrapped in white cotton cloth covered in layers of mud and clay around which over time sacrificial materials are embedded, such as chicken and goat blood, animal bones, chewed kola nuts, alcohol and millet porridge. As the sacrificial materials build up over time, and the crust cracks and hardens, each added layer endows the Boli with great spiritual power. The creature a Boli represents is unidentifiable, but many take on a zoomorphic form while others may be anthropomorphic.

The Boli has been cosmologically described as both a symbol of the universe and a receptacle for the forces that drive the universe. As repositories of enormous spiritual power or nyama, the Boli are viewed with awe and fear. They were traditionally the most essential instruments of communication between earthly mortals and supernatural powers and as such, according to Sarah Brett-Smith, they are an important part of the Bamana judicial structure, inanimate objects to which the community entrusts its taking of decision.
Provenance Ex private collection from the south of France.