“Spirit Husband Figure:” The Materiality of Baoulé Spouses from the Otherworld

Presenter's Name(s)

Katherine E. BrennanFollow

Abstract

The “Spirit Husband Figure” is a spirit spouse wood sculpture (or blolo bian in the Baoulé language) located in the Fleming Museum that is said to contain the otherworldly spouse each person has in life in order to help alleviate spiritual ailments. The purpose of this research is to understand how Baoulé practices concerning spirit spouses become materialized through sculpture. At the same time I consider how the Fleming Museum may display the “Spirit Husband Figure” in a way that is actively undoing misconceptions for educational and cultural preservation purposes. Additionally, the research is being done to understand the ramifications of colonialism with regard to the “Spirit Husband Figure” and whether or not repatriation should be considered. This presentation will seek to explain Baoulé spirit spouses, the importance of display in the museum with regard to the “Spirit Husband Figure,” and how Western conceptions of objects often fall short.

Primary Faculty Mentor Name

Vicki Brennan

Status

Undergraduate

Student College

College of Arts and Sciences

Program/Major

Religion

Second Program/Major

French

Primary Research Category

Arts & Humanities

Secondary Research Category

Social Sciences

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“Spirit Husband Figure:” The Materiality of Baoulé Spouses from the Otherworld

The “Spirit Husband Figure” is a spirit spouse wood sculpture (or blolo bian in the Baoulé language) located in the Fleming Museum that is said to contain the otherworldly spouse each person has in life in order to help alleviate spiritual ailments. The purpose of this research is to understand how Baoulé practices concerning spirit spouses become materialized through sculpture. At the same time I consider how the Fleming Museum may display the “Spirit Husband Figure” in a way that is actively undoing misconceptions for educational and cultural preservation purposes. Additionally, the research is being done to understand the ramifications of colonialism with regard to the “Spirit Husband Figure” and whether or not repatriation should be considered. This presentation will seek to explain Baoulé spirit spouses, the importance of display in the museum with regard to the “Spirit Husband Figure,” and how Western conceptions of objects often fall short.