Item: Baule Mask Size: 38 x 21 x 17 cm Medium: Timber Carving Origin: ivory Coast. (see ethnographical notes below)
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About the Baule Tribe
|Location: Central Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast)
Language: Baule (Akan cluster of Twi)
Neighboring Peoples: Malinke, Guro, Asante
Types of Art: The Baule create art in several media, including wooden sculpture, gold and brass casting similar to their Asante ancestors, and mask and figure carving, which have been greatly influenced by their Senufo and Guro neighbors.
History: The Baule belong to the Akan peoples who inhabit Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire. Three hundred years ago the Baule people migrated westward from Ghana when the Asante rose to power. The tale of how they broke away from the Asante has been preserved in their oral traditions. During the Asante rise to power the Baule queen, Aura Poku, was in direct competition with the current Asante king. When the Asante prevailed, the queen led her people away to the land they now occupy. The male descendant of Aura Poku still lives in the palace she established and is honored by the Baule as their nominal king.
Economy: The Baule grow yams and some maize as primary crops. They are also exporters of cocoa and kola nuts, which are grown on local plantations using large numbers of exploited migrant laborers, most from Burkina Faso. Many locally grown crops were introduced from the Americas during the Atlantic slave trade. These include maize, manioc, peppers, peanuts, tomatoes, squash, and sweet potatoes. They also raise farm animals including sheep, goats, chickens, and dogs. Markets which are primarily run by women take place every four days and are the center of the local economy. Local produce and craft items are sold alongside imported goods from all over the world.
Political Systems: The Baule have a highly centralized government with a king or chief at the top who inherits his position along matrilineal lines. There are various subchiefs in charge of his local populations, and all the chiefs rely on political advisors who help in the decision making process. The Goli association is the primary mask association, which provides social order among the Baule.
Religion: Religion includes both ancestor worship and a heirarchy of nature gods. Nature spirits and spirit spouses are often represented in sculpture. Their creator god is Alouroua, who is never physically represented.