Lobi Bateba Shrine Figure Thil , African Art
Additional Information: A wonderful standing figure without arms and legs with the body covered with heavy encrusted materials. Traces of pigment and feathers indicate this figure was used as a shrine piece and was receiving sacrificial materials. This figurine is identified with the Lobi people. The Lobi people, who live in Burkina Faso and Ghana, revere spirits known as Thil, and build shrines to them, which are filled with figures like this one. These figures, known as Bateba, are believed to embody the Thil spirits. The Bateba are looked upon as living beings charged with special powers who move, fight against witches, and have intercourse with each other. The Lobi believe that the Bateba are superior to humans, but inferior to the Thil spirits, so the Bateba is first activated by putting it in a Thil shrine. The Bateba keep sorcerers away, and help the Thil ward off misfortune. They also play a role in the divination system.
Spread across three countries, the Lobi today live in small villages in individual fort-like family compounds surrounded by cultivated fields. Within the walls of the compound family life includes the family head, his wives, married sons and their families, living together in the family compound that also has shrines dedicated to spirits called Batela or Thila (sing. thil). Anthropomorphic figures are believed to embody these spirits. They are looked upon as living beings charged with special powers who move, protect, fight against witches, and have intercourse with each other.
Lobi carvers were inventive and apparently expressive in their sculptures. Bateba spirits are represented by male and female sculptures that are grouped around family or personal shrines in multiples of figures and paired as male and female. Offerings and prayers are made to them while the Bateba communicate through diviners and sorcerers to their owners. Diviners seek to determine the cause of events and to propitiate the spirits use Bateba figures contacting them through offerings and magical formulae.
For further information and examples see:
Daniela Bognolo, Lobi, Visions of Africa. 5 Continents Editions. 2007
See also AFRICAN MASTERPIECES FROM MUNICH-The Stratlisches Museum fur Volkerkunde. and LOBI SKULPTUREN AUS DER KOLLECTION KATSOUROS.
I have examined this piece and agree with the description.
Niangi Batulukisi, PhD.