Berz Gallery of African Art

Singular, Powerful and Mysterious 140 Year-Old Lobi Seated Shrine Figure (lab tested)

Lobi Tribe, Burkina Faso

Composition: terracotta, evidence of shrine applications Dimensions: 12.5" (31.75 cm) h x 9.5" (24.13 cm) w x 9.5" (24.13 cm) d Age: Tested by Kotalla Laboratory, Germany, resulting with firing date of 1870 +/- Right foot (gone) has been replaced with a modeled foot mold Every piece sold includes a handmade custom base and a comprehensive dossier with certificate and authenticity with any additional historical documentation or information pertaining to the object. The Lobi follow the spiritual concept of "thila" , invisible spirits of nature with certain supernatural abilities and powers that they can use for benevolent ends. The most common representations of thila that are placed on family shrines are known as bateba figures. Wooden bateba figures can be found in practically every important reference material and museum that covers African art. Terracotta bateba figures, however, are much more rare, and only a small group have been collected and published. It is thought that this mysterious, 140 year old figure functioned as a bateba figure, the spirit of which would be called upon to bring beneficial power to bear on the shrine and the keeper of the shrine. It is such a rare figure that it would be hard to find more than 2 or 3 examples in any archive anywhere in the world that even resemble it. We have yet to encounter one, and we do a significant amount of research. The photo by Huib Bloom herein is indicative of the type of environment where this figure once lived. This is a truly amazing figure. In all likelihood it was once positioned so that it would always look upwards at the shrine-keeper or viewer. When placed on a pedestal or a table or other piece of furniture it takes on an otherworldly quality, gazing up at the sky. Interestingly, this contrasts notably with the fact that this figure is girth, with hardy construction for a heat fired terracotta from this region. The foot, which broke off, has been replaced by a professionally fabricated mold, which adds a very nice touch to the structure. There was never a right hand to the piece, but it is something we tend not to notice because of the scale and power of the piece. It would, however, be somewhat cool to fabricate a molded hand if the winning bidder would like this done. The whitish coloration on the rear of the head, the neck, and in and around the base of the figure is pigment that remains from the shrine where the figure was kept. This is the first time in the history of this figure it has been photographed and offered for sale.