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HOME : African & Tribal Art : Masterpieces of African Art : Fon Wooden Bocio Sculpture
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Fon Wooden Bocio Sculpture - PF.4508
Origin: Southern Benin/Togo
Circa: 19 th Century AD to 20 th Century AD
Dimensions: 41.5" (105.4cm) high x 12" (30.5cm) wide
Catalogue: V24
Collection: African
Medium: Wood and Mixed Media


Location: Great Britain
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Description
The Benin people believe that their kingdom was created by the daughter of the king of Tado, a Yoruba, who, when coming to look for water in the forest encountered the leopard spirit. From that union Agasu was born, the ancestor of all the Fon. The art created by the Fon artists falls into two categories- royal art and religious objects. Objects of prestige in bronze and copper were produced by artisans living at court; these included engraved calabashes, scepters and commanders' sticks, the most beautiful of which holding high place in the king's residence. Beyond court art, the Fon adopted the belief of Vodun, which was the affirmation of a supernatural world that could be contacted through a series of various procedures. The members of the Vodun believed that their faith could directly effect this world and guarantee eternal life in the next.

Apart from ancestral statues, the Fon also made Bochio statues. These were actually made by the village blacksmith who sculpted them from a trunk of a tree. It was then placed at the entrance of a village or house to protect its inhabitants by chasing away prowlers or ghosts. The power of this amazing statue is undeniable. He is more a mythical being than a man, holding a skull in front of him as a sort of weapon to frighten away unwelcome visitors. It is possible this statue also represents an ancestor whose function is much the same as the Bochio, to serve as guardian for his living relatives. Whatever his exact purpose this imposing figure conjures a primordial state where man and spirit mingle, life and death personified, a guardian at the gates of the netherworld, offering protection for the safety of his people.
- (PF.4508)

 

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