Fon Vodun Encrusted Bocio Maternity Fetish Figure Benin
A standing figure with a face exposed showing Fon signature features. She holds an infant (or doll?) tight to her back, giving the figure the look of a maternity figure. The person appears to be bound with rope. The piece has an encrusted patina and cloth impregnated with a sacrificial mixture which often includes liquids like milk, eggs, and blood.
The use of fetishes among the Vodun practitioners of Benin is widespread, and in fact, they are a vital part of the daily life of the village. A fetish, or more correctly "bochio," is in its simplest terms a prayer: a remote object, empowered by a priest, and used as an intermediary for change. Once a fetish has entered the market, there is no way to know exactly what it was used for. The most frequent use of a bochio is to drive away the meddling forces of witchcraft, which to the Fon is the source of most problems. The final components of a piece can be telling. The use of unspecified forms could indicate the involvement of spirits in the life of members of the community seeking help.
The Fon people are perhaps the best known of all the Vodun practitioners remaining in Africa, probably because there has been so little success by outsiders to "convert" them. The practice is extremely widespread, however, and even if not formally endorsed by villages or chiefs, it is still a strong force for many individuals all over West Africa, regardless of tribal affiliation. The practice of "voodoo" in the Caribbean and the United States is, of course, an African import, brought across the Atlantic by would-be slaves. Today the two religions have little in common, however. According to Steve Messick, "Vodun should not be confused with its bastardized cousin in Haiti and the US, 'voodou,' although the New World version did originate in West Africa, and maintains vestiges of its African roots. Vodun is a uniquely African path: to peace with the unknown, with nature, and with other people."