Gong strikers were used by Baule diviners before a divination ritual to trigger the state of awareness that enables them to serve as mediums.
"There are two distinct types of gong strikers: kokowa, utilitarian strikers devoid of embellishment, and lawle, intricately carved implements that display
their maker's deliberate aesthetic intentions. In these more elaborate works, the repertory of motifs joined to the handle includes male and female
figures, zoomorphic imagery, and bo nun amuin masks (men's sacred masks kept in bush sanctuaries where women are forbidden to enter)."
Source- Metropolitan Museum of Art
|THE OBJECTS BELOW ARE NOT IN MY COLLECTION
EXAMPLES AND INFORMATION BELOW FOR REFERENCE PURPOSES ONLY
|The object above is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY
Gong Striker: Equestrian (Lawle)
Baule, Côte d'Ivoire
Wood, cloth; 10.8 x 25.1 cm (4 1/2 x 9 7/8 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, Pace Editions Inc.,
Fred and Rita Richman, and Mr. and Mrs. Milton F. Rosenthal Gifts, 1977
"A dramatic spectacle enhanced by dance and music provides the arena for revelations made by Baule trance diviners (komien). The sound of a gong hit
with a finely carved gong striker, such as this example, acts as a catalyst that triggers the state of awareness necessary for komien to serve as mediums.
This work was originally designed to be struck against a bell-shaped iron gong by the diviner in the privacy of his or her shrine room before initiating a
public session. The percussive ring induces trance and possession by nature spirits (asye usu), and if the diviner senses their departure at any point
before the event's conclusion, it is struck again. Within the context of the consultation witnessed by the community, the beauty of this carefully carved
implement contributes to the aesthetic appeal of the dramatic spectacle, which is choreographed to combine costumes, dance, and music with a display
of various sculptural forms owned by the diviner.1 These add to the theatrical appeal of the event and denote the diviner's professional stature.
There are two distinct types of gong strikers: kokowa, utilitarian strikers devoid of embellishment, and lawle, intricately carved implements that display
their maker's deliberate aesthetic intentions.2 In these more elaborate works, the repertory of motifs joined to the handle includes female figures,
zoomorphic imagery, and bo nun amuin masks (men's sacred masks kept in bush sanctuaries where women are forbidden to enter). Although the maker
of the example shown here would not have seen the equestrian subject it depicts, the design of this lawle ranks among the most accomplished of its
The overall conception of the expressionistic horse fuses together a swayback and a long camel-like muzzle with the carefully rendered minutiae of the
carved reins. The scale of the rider's upper body contrasts sharply with that of his legs. Below, the broad concave curve of the horse's stomach is
emphasized by the crescent-shaped negative space between it and the concave curve of the finely carved base. The delicate imagery featured in the
base both distinguishes its two sides from each other and unifies them. A turtle is the principal protagonist on one side, and a serpent that dominates the
other reaches over to bite its foot. This bilateral asymmetry is an intentional aesthetic device used by the Baule makers of such works to create contrast
as well as to surprise and to demonstrate their inexhaustible invention.3 At the base, a small pad of woven cloth is attached to the striker's hammering
element.4 The top of the base, decorated with a carved openwork figurative passage, is joined at a slight angle to the handle, which has been rendered
in a classic ropelike form. Baule sculptor Lela Kouakou has noted that this design element is recognized as a mark of an artist's virtuoso talent.5"
1. Baule 1997, p. 237.
2. Perspectives 1987, p. 147.
3. Baule 1997, p. 29.
4. Ibid., p. 221.
5. Perspectives 1987, p. 152.
|Above is a photo I took in 2005 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
of the figure mentioned below