Lobi Bateba Ti Bala maternity figure (unusual or extraordinary Bateba)
The Lobi people live in a vast geographical area that stretches from Burkina Fasso, to the Ivory Coast and into Ghana. Villages are spread out over
wide areas and are made up of several compounds.

The Lobi community is not organized on the basis of kinship or political ties and lacks any kind of centralized political authority in the form of a chief
king or council of village elders. Instead the members of the community are united by common adherence to the cult of a nature spirit called “thil” (pl
thila) and the rules that determine correct social behavior in the community are the rules that the spirit dictates through the diviner (thildar). The thila
are invisible spirits of nature with certain supernatural abilities and powers that they can use for malevolent or benevolent ends. Each village has a
particular spirit (dithil) that is responsible for the entire village.

Social behavior is regulated by these thila, whose will is passed to ordinary people by priests and diviners. Wooden or clay sculpture, called bateba, act
as an intermediary between a particular thil and the Lobi community.

Lobi bateba figures have a wide degree of style and are made for a wide range of purposes. In Lobi communities anyone can learn to carve, it is not
limited to people with specialized training. Lobi bateba figures are believed to be able to act in behalf of their owner, they are considered a living being
and have the ability to act out against forces that could harm it’s owner or bring good things to it’s owner depending on it’s intended purpose.

Very basic definitions
BATEBA - Generally in literature on the Lobi the term "bateba" translates to a "wooden carved figure"

BATEBA PHUWE  - Normal or ordinary Bateba
These figures usually have no specific defining posture and are often figures with arms straight down and the figures are looking straight ahead and
often have a grim look on the face. These figures can have a variety of different functions.

BATEBA Tl  BALA - Unusual or extraordinary Bateba (sub categories Thil Dokra <janus figure>, Betise <mating couple>, maternity figures)
Thil Dorka - Figures with two heads represent deities whose ability to see in several directions at once makes them exceptionally dangerous and
Betise - Figures depicting a man and a woman making love (the man always positioned behind the woman) are prescribed for single men so that they
find a wife or to women to avoid sterility or wished to have a child.

Some figures are carved with sad expressions or have a hand touching the face because their function is to mourn for their owners.

BATEBA Tl PUO  - Dangerous Bateba
Often referred to as Bateba Duntundara as well, these figures are considered dangerous and block entrance to harmful forces such as disease or
witchcraft, and are depicted with one or both arms held up.
BATEBA  BAMBAR - Paralysed Bateba
Figures depicting a seated man or woman with their legs stretched out in front of them are called bamgbar/bambar. According to certain soothsayers,
these protect children and the elderly from paralysis.

The Lobi often have conflicting interpretations of the meanings of the figures, and there are also varied meanings on similar figures because of
regional variances.

References: A History of Art in Africa, Lobi Art and Culture, The Lobi of Burkina Fasso, Lobi Skulpturen

If you are interested in learning more about the Lobi,
CLICK HERE to go to some great online reference articles.
Link will open in a new window.
Lobi Bateba maternity figure with characteristics of 3 different types of Bateba figures: Maternity, Duntundara and Yadewara

Unusual or extraordinary Bateba figures are often referred to as Bateba "Ti Bala", and then there are sub categories of Ti Bala figures.
Maternity and Betise figures fall under the Ti Bala category of Lobi figures as well as the figure above that combines several different attributes.
This figure is very unusual as it combines features from 3 different types of Bateba figures.

I have seen several different combinations on Lobi figures, but this is the first example that I have come across that has characteristics from a Lobi
maternity figure, a "Duntundara figure" and it also has the downward pointing eyes that are often seen on "Yadewara" (sad bateba) figures.
Many different meanings can be theorized by the attributes on this figure in my opinion.

I see it as:
A mother who has lost a child and is mourning the child and wishes for another child and wishes for no harm to come to her new child.

My friend Veronique Martelliere adds the following interesting interpretations:
In Daniela Bognolo's article is said that raising the hands can be translated in words with:
I was betrayed by a spirit and I curse him - please, benevolent & kind spirits, help me and punish him/her".

An essential point is that only women have the sacred right to cursing spirits and using a complex code of gestures to express their resentments.

A woman raises her
left hand AGAINST "the spirits of her mother side (or matriclan) and the right hand against those of her patriclan".
She can also cross her hands on her chest: that means calling all men to help her be revenged.

When she raises both arms, she curses present time and call for her ancestors help to make things as they were in the past, before the illness, accident
or whatever happened which "was" caused by a recently-turned-to-spirit family member.

Thank you Vero for the additional interpretations.
Who knows what the actual meaning behind the piece is, I think it is a
fascinating figure!

13" tall
Provenance: Tribal Art Galerie, NJ
Previously: Erik Farrow - Farrow Fine Art Gallery, CA
Previously: Ex Woods Davey collection, CA
Woods Davey is an art collector and an artist, he does some interesting sculpture.
Click here to see some of his work (in a new window)

This object is currently in the exhibition: "
Native Arts of the World...At Home in Colorado - The Douglas Society Collects"
The 3 figures below are the types of figures I mention above in my comparisons of the features in the figure above.
The downward pointing eyes of the Bateba Yadewara which mourns for it's owner, the maternity figure holding a baby and the Bateba
Duntundara with the outstretched arms blocking entrance to harmful forces such as disease or witchcraft.
Bateba Yadewara (sad bateba)
Bateba Duntundara
Maternity figure
A similar type figure is being sold at the Serge Reynes November 2005 auction, Lot 125
PDF catalog
This figure is also a maternity figure and has one arm raised.
A photo of this figure is below, click on image to see full size version.
Lot 125
37cm (14.4 inches)
Estimate 5000/8000€
The more I looked at the 2 figures, the one from the Serge Reynes auction in the middle and my figure on either side, the more  I feel that
the 2 figures were possibly carved by the same hand. The feet are very similar in style, the legs are very similar in style, both figures have a
squared naval, the breasts on both figures are similar, the carving on the hands is very similar, both have thick long necks and the facial
carvings are also very similar.

Another figure that is in my collection that is VERY stylistically similar to my Lobi maternity figure and the Lobi figure in the Serge Reynes
auction is my bateba bambar figure (shown below) The head, the jaw, the ears and facial expression are very similar to the ones above, as
well as the hand style, breast style (small and very close to the arm), and the belly button on my bambar figure is also square as it is in my
maternity figure and the figure in the Serge Reynes auction. Another similar feature is the legs as they are very large and bowed out in the
upper portion just as the 2 figures above are, the gap between the legs is also very similar in all 3 figures although you can not see it from
the photo belwo. The neck on my bambar figure below is also very thick and very similar to the 2 figures above.

It is my belief that these 3 figures possibly come from the same hand due to the very similar stylistic characteristics they all have in common.
Below are some side-by-side comparisons I did.
This first group shows the similarities in the heads and the breasts that I talked about above.
This group below shows the similarities in the lower bodies of the figures that I talked about above.
The legs on my bambar figure (right) have more of a bend in the knee than the other 2 figures but that is because that is a feature of
those particular figures. The tips of the feet are broken off but if they were still there they would look like the feet on the other 2 figures.
One thing that they all have is the square naval, and this seems like an individual carving trait as well.
Other examples for reference purposes
Christie's - Paris
Art Africain et Océanien
Auction Date : Dec 6, 2005

Représentant une femme debout tenant son enfant dans ses bras et reposant sur sa hanche, les visages aux lèvres proéminentes et aux
yeux semi-circulaires, les coiffes lisses et bombées. Patine sombre et croûteuse. Probablement par Lunkena Pale de Gaoua.
Hauteur: 29 cm.

€ 1,000 - € 1,500       

Voir Meyer, P., Kunst und Religion der Lobi, Zurich, 1981, p.150, fig.119 pour une sculpture du même artiste.
The examples below are from the collection of Floros and Sigrid Katsouros and are from the catalog
"Lobi Skulpturen - from the collection of Floros and Sigrid Katsouros"
Lobi maternity - 31 cm
Published Piet Meyer, 194,199,208
Provenance - Galerie Garcia, Paris
Collection of Floros and Sigrid Katsouros
Lobi maternity - 27.5 cm
Provenance - Helene and Philippe Leloup, Paris
Collection of Floros and Sigrid Katsouros
14A - Lobi maternity figure - 20 cm - Provenance Maine Durie, Paris

15 - Lobi maternity figure - 34 cm - Provenance Galerie Garcia, Paris

16 - Lobi maternity figure - 18.7cm - Provenance Hans Bittlingmaier - Published "Bie den Wahrsagern im Land der Lobi", # 12

Collection of Floros and Sigrid Katsouros
Lobi maternity figure - 30 cm
Provenance Hans Bittlingmaier
previously Maine Durie, Paris

Collection of Floros and Sigrid Katsouros
Another interesting Lobi figure that falls along similar lines is this figure below from the William Siegal
Gallery. It's a Bateba Betise figure and the female has her arm raised. These figures are usually
prescribed to a woman who wants to have a child. The one arm raised is a feature usually seen in the
Duntundara figures to block the entrance of harmful forces.
Below are some additional photos of my Lobi maternity.
You can click on any image to see high resolution version
to see my other Lobi maternity figure shown above