The Lobi’s distribution lies in southern Burkina Faso and northern Cote d’Ivoire in West Africa, on the Western border of Ghana. In the 18th century they migrated to these parts from the old Kingdom of Ghana. They were skilled metal workers and much sought after by friends and foes.
The Lobi did not carve or use masks but specialised in the carving of figurines in hard wood. Their statuettes are not strictly effigies of ancestors but have a status between supernatural beings and humans and are called bateba. Soothsayers and leaders of the family cult used them at the request of a particular presiding thil deity. Such figures are kept in shrines as living personages that see, communicate and intervene in the life of Lobi villages in warding off diseace or witchcraft. The figure’s facial expression manifests calm and dignity and gives an impression of other-worldly detachment. They stand rigidly, arms usually alongside the body, with toes and fingers barely indicated. Buttocks, bellies and calves are well rounded. Eyes are of the cowry shell type and lips pouting. Pleas to them were to strengthen the petitioners, to intervene on their behalf with the spirits of nature and to protect them in their ventures.
Height=10cm .......................... Height=20cm ......................... Height=26cm
"Art & Religion of the Lobi" by Piet Meyer, 1981 (Museum Rietberg Zurich)
"Lobi Sculptures in the Katsouros Collection" by Floros & Sigrid Katsouros, 2002
"Anonymous Carvers of the Lobi/Anonyme Schnitzer der Lobi" by F.Katsouros & S.Herkenhoff, 2006
The two larger figures were acquired in 1980 from an Oriental & Ethnographic dealer in London's Portobello Road Market (J.H.Barnett) where many an African figurine surfaced (see Miniature Sculptures). The smaller one comes from the Dogon Gallery in Berlin.