Lot: 40

Rare female figure, 19th / early 20th century

Côte d'Ivoire, Bété

Provenance Size Starting price / estimated price
Patrick Varnier, Paris, France
Yves Créhalet, Paris, France
Serge Schoffel, Brussels, Belgium (2011)
H: 18.1 inch 6000 EUR / 12000 EUR

wood, rich patina, rest., base

Present figure shows stylistic similarities with a seated female Bete figure published in Robbins & Nooter (1989, p. 171, ill. 335) (see also AHDRC 0134498). The deep furrow along the backbone is particularly striking.

Statues from the Bete region are extremely rare, and their precise meaning and function remains uncertain. Upheavals in Bete society after 1920 restricted the production and use of objects associated with earlier rites. This decline was partly due to the popularity of a syncretic cult, which demanded the destruction of such imagery.

From fieldwork we only know, that they had pairs of big figures, kept in secret places, which should represent the founders of the settlement and the community. The custom to honour the primeval couple is known by many ethnic groups in Western Africa.

The Bete settled in the western central region of present-day Ivory Coast, on the left bank of the Sassandra River. They live in a triangular area, formed by the towns of Daloa, Soubre and Gagnoa.

Very few researchers have studied these groups or their arts. Denise Paulme (1962) found that statues were unknown in the Daloa region, which is closest to the eastern part of the Wé lands. In contrast, they were used in the north, in the Gagnoa region, not far from the Gagou and Guro territories, which Holas was able to find out during his research between 1950 and 1968. In fact, one was found near Ouaragahio and according to Holas this figure represents a deceased ancestor.

Robbins, Warren M. & Nancy Ingram Nooter, African Art in American Collections, o.O. 1989, p. 171, ill. 335 Phillips, Tom (Hg.), Afrika, Die Kunst eines Kontinents, Berlin 1996, p. 446 f.