Bamana people, Mali, 1900-1950
Wood, clay, blood, cloth, nails, rods, organic material
Length: 54 cm ; Height: 42 cm ; Width: 21 cm
Provenance : Private collection, Copenhaguen
This “zoomorphic” fetish, a feature of Watiriwa and the principal Kono cult boli, once played a central role in the ritual life of a Bamana village. Its primary function was to accumulate and control the naturally occurring life force called nyama for the spiritual benefit of the community. Used as altars or carried during dance performances, boliw are complex creations created from esoteric recipes, or daliluw. Animal bones, vegetable matter, honey, and metal are packed around an interior armature of bamboo wrapped in white cotton cloth. They are covered with layers of mud and clay, and their surfaces accumulate sacrificial materials over time, including chicken and goat blood, chewed kola nuts, alcohol, and millet porridge. Each added layer of material lends the structure greater spiritual power.