Bamana people, Mali, 19th century
Wood, clay, blood, bers, cloth, organic material
Length : 66 cm ; Height : 42 cm ; width : 26
Provenance : Ole Jensen, Copenhaguen
Private Danish collection, circa 1970
The Komo is one, and the most important, of the six male institutions in the Bamana culture. The term refers to the concept formed in each village by its members, living and deceased, the shrine and the altars (boli), the leader of the cult, and the mask. Its essential purpose is to keep up the worship of God, the One Creator, and to ensure the preservation and spread of traditional knowledge in the fields of nature and culture. The entry is obligatory for all young boys who have undergone circumcision : the practice and the teaching received assure gradually their religious, cultural, social and political education.
In his catalogue of reference about the Boli (pl. boliw) Johann Levy gives the following definition: “object that possesses magical powers ; portable altars that receives sacrifices. Brought into existence by secret incantations and complex recipes of ritual specialists, boliw are living beings that experience hunger and must be fed with sacrifices. The force that emanates from them, called nyama, is often aggressive. Boliw can both protect and harm human beings. They are feared because they are neither wholly good nor evil and because they are believed to be supremely powerful.
Although this boli looks vaguely like a hippopotamus it does not correspond to any animal species in particular. Despite its massive appearance and tremendous weight an impression of lightness and serene strength emanates from the sculpture, giving the illusion of a movement in slow motion. The worn surface reveals multiple layers of sacrificial materials resulting in a thick, dried and cracked, coagulated blood coat. The overall shape of the boli perfectly fits with the concept of modern aesthetic while its primitive and archaic aspect is strangely reminiscent of prehistoric and rupestral art.
Price on request