Bassa Divination Female Figure Scarification Liberia
A seated female figure is carved in a strong style typical to the Bassa people. This example is a pure Bassa sculpture with all details found on typical Bassa Figures. The head and face of this figure are carved in a similar manner as the better known Bassa masks called Geh-naw that dances in graceful and feminine movements to accompany the boys when they return to their village after having been initiated into the men's society. The facial features are expressive. The elaborate braided hairstyle and markings on chest and abdomen are evidences that the figure represents a mature or initiate female.
The Bassa have several female and male societies, including chu-den-zo, to whom gela (geh-naw). The Bassa are relatives of the Dan, who live to their northeast, mostly in Cote d'Ivoire. They have absorbed much from Dan culture, including the usage and appearance of their arts. Occupying the geographic center of Liberia, the Bassa live in scattered small villages, and cultivate rice and other crops. They do not have a centralized government or paramount chief, and depend on secret societies like the "Poro" to maintain order and social cohesion.
Masks are the primary modes of expression for the Bassa, as well as their Mande relatives, and figures are rare and poorly documented. What is known is that statues are reportedly carved to honor "favorite wife," or other important family member or ancestor. These figures served to honor women of good character and generous spirit. They were hidden and not, as far as we know, used ritually by the village as a whole. They are personal in nature, and thus each one has a unique meaning.
The Bassa people are a West African ethnic group primarily native to Liberia. They form a majority or a significant minority in Liberia's Grand Bassa, Rivercess, Margibi and Montserrado counties. In Liberia's capital of Monrovia, they are the largest ethnic group. withan overall population of about 0.57 million, they are the second largest ethnic group in Liberia (13.4%), after the Kpelle people (20.3%). Small Bassa communities are also found in Sierra Leone and Ivory-Coast.