Art History 104: African, New World and Oceanic Art and Architecture
Writing Assignment on African Wood Sculpture Begin assignment after
This writing assignment , for which a photo is provided, focuses on a wood sculpture depicting a seated male figure, made by the Baule of the Ivory Coast in West Africa. A sign has been placed next to the figure so you know which object to write about.
This artwork was selected because readings about this kind of object as understood in its original cultural setting are posted for you on D2L. You are asked to read these excerpts from books that talk about the form, meaning, and function of what are often called “spirit spouses” or “otherworld lovers.” The Baule name for a female spirit spouse is blolo bla (meaning something like woman (or bla) from the otherworld or blolo) and a male spirit spouse is blolo bian (man from the otherworld). The object you will write about is a blolo bian, or male, as seen by the beard and chest.
Your paper, a 1000-word essay, will be divided in two parts. In Part 1, introduce the topic of the spirit spouse and the cultural context for its creation, based on the readings. Questions such as who uses these objects, why are they fabricated, what purposes do they serve, how are they cared for, as well as other details of the cultural background, can be discussed in Part 1. To develop your ideas from readings, I’d begin with the Hackett reading, go on to the Vogel reading, and end with the Boyer essay. The Boyer essay is the most insightful in terms of how the Baule understand the idea of having a mate in the otherworld. You may also consult information on the Baule spirit spouse given in Lecture #1, Module 2 on African art.
While Part 1 of your paper will make generalizations about this type of object, Part 2 will deal with the specific object in front of you. This is why I ask you to go and see it first- hand. Provide a description of the object and discuss formal features that exemplify principles of African aesthetics, which were reviewed in Lecture #1, Module 2. This will concern such elements as stylization of body parts, organization of different details, and surface treatment. Also discuss any details of the figure you may have learned about from the readings (such as pose, hairstyle, or any other detail you notice from observation). Careful observation of the object will enhance your grade. Careless, superficial observation will detract from your grade. An additional guide for the assignment, with information on citations, formatting, and submission, is provided here. Please read that document next.
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