The Baule believe that spirits (asie usu), both
male and female, live in the bush and
occasionally fall in love with human beings.
When this happens a statue, such as this
delightful example, is made to honor the spirit.
The figure is treated like a real person, to the
extent that it is fed and dressed by its owner. A
'spirit mate' that feels neglected will cause
problems in the life of the living partner, and
may cause impotency or infertility. A diviner is
then needed to sort out the problem and appease
the otherworld lover. This lovely young girl is a
model of feminine beauty with her brilliant red
skin, finely carved facial features and brightly
colored accessories. She embodies all a man
could wish for in a companion, a young healthy
woman who is sexually attractive and capable of
bearing many children. She symbolizes the
intimate relationship between the physical world
and the world of spirit. The Baule also carry
wooden images of their real wives and husbands,
taking the figure with them everywhere they go.
Such images of devotion are one of the most
charming ways art can influence and brighten