Baule Gorilla Wood Figure Cote d'Ivoire
Monkeys, known as Mbra and sometimes referred to as Gbekre, are considered as power figures used in many rituals. They are used especially during a trance divination where the spirit of Mbra assists the diviner in his effort to transmit the spirits of other world's message to the living in order to solve a problem during a consultation. This is the one rare occasion where an Mbra can be seen by everybody. When not in use, Mbra is displayed on a shrine. Monkey / gorilla figures are considered too powerful for women to see, and are kept hidden in the bush where they are fed with sacrificial offerings. The encrusted patina on this figure is from sacrificial offerings and ritual libations poured over the figure. The large necklace with cowrie shells the figure is wearing, contains magical elements. Some large, even sinister-looking, full-sized versions are thought to be carved by blacksmiths and used as guardians of special places or even entire villages. They usually have bared teeth and are also heavily encrusted with sacrificial offerings. In some case, they hold a bowl. Sometimes, the bowl is replaced by a carved egg. Egg is an important component of the divination process among the Baule. Egg is also part of the sacrificial elements dedicated to the spirits of divination.