Figure, Bateba



Figure, Bateba


Carving, effigy, fetish, scultpure


20th Century


West Africa, Burkina Faso


7 7/16 x 1 7/8 x 1 1/2 in. (18.9 x 4.8 x 3.8 cm)

Object Number



Lobi individuals consult diviners, called bour, concerning social or physical problems at hand. Bour in turn consult thila, invisible beings that the Lobi creator, Thangba Yu (meaning, "sky above"), assigned to protect humans from hunger, sickness and death caused by their own transgressions of behavioral laws set out by Thangba Yu at the beginning of time.

During a consultation, the bour utilizes a number of objects, including mussel shells, stones, leather bottles containing cowrie shells, bells, red and white limestone for the drawing of symbols on the floor, and miniature figurines (bateba) such as this one, with which to attract the attention of the thila. These figurines are placed before the diviner and his client to witness the rite. The session begins without the bour asking the client the reason for his or her visit. While holding hands with the client, the bour poses a series of questions to which the thila answers "yes" or "no." Answers are indicated by up and down movements of the joined hands.

Once a diagnosis has been made, the client must follow prohibitions, perform sacrifices, and possibly erect a shrine to house large-scale figurative sculptures (bateba).

Credit Line

Ex coll. William S. Arnett


Divine Intervention: African Art and Religion, Michael C. Carlos Museum, February 5 - December 4, 2011


© Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory University. Photo by Bruce M. White, 2008.
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“Figure, Bateba,” Michael C. Carlos Museum Collections Online, accessed July 11, 2020,

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