|Dagari male and female shrine figures, Burkina Faso
25" and 25.5" tall
mid 20th century
definite signs of age and use
$3000 for the pair
The Dagari are a subgroup of the Lobi, living east of Gaoua directly at
the border in Ghana and Burkina Faso. Each of these figures depicts a
deceased family member and it embodies their spirit. They were placed
on the ancestor shrines of the family (thilda) and they protected the
family from illness and other misfortunes. They were sometimes also
used in divination practices. Figures were usually passed from father
Libations are applied to figures in the thilda and are normally applied
on the top or front of a figure (by flicking the material on the figure), so
as in the case of these 2 figures you will see the encrusted and
feathered surface on the front while the backs of the figures remains
Even though these are the most abstract of all Lobi related figures, this
couple possesses a wonderful charm and character, especially when
you display them leaning into each other side by side.
|For additional detail click on any thumbnail to see the high resolution version of the image which will open in a new window.
|I would like to give my sincere thanks to Amyas Naegele (http://www.amyas.net) for providing me with the following information about these figures.
"Gilbert Ouedrago, a Catholic Mossi trader with many decades of experience who has proved himself to be reliable, honest (as far as the term goes)
and certainly devoted to art of this region. He is quite insistent that this information is the truth. There are very few if any Dagari figures of this type left
in the field. The Dagari are not a sub group of the Lobi per se. The term Lobi has come to mean people from a region defined by colonial
administrators, using European ethnographers' surveys as Lobi. In French West Africa this region was the "Cercle de Lobi". It contained a variety of
more and less closely associated ethnic groups including villages identified as "Lobi", "Dagari" and "Gan" as well as other groups. The same type of
administrative organizing occurred all over colonial Africa and elsewhere creating "tribes" out of geographically close village clusters. For more on this
phenomena see the recent Senufo book and exhibition curated by Patritis and Gagliardi.
According to Mr. Ouedrago, Dagari figures of the type we're talking about here are created by the eldest grandson upon the death of his grandfather.
Whether this is solely the paternal or maternal grandfather I do not know, but Ouedrago is very insistent it is the "grandfather, not the father.". The
grandson was required to go to the forest and fashion an image of the deceased from a tree. As all Dagari figures in my experience were of extremely
hard wood I think we can assume that the type of tree was probably narrowly defined. The figures are also generally clearly male, occasionally have
noses and mouths but rarely have defined eyes or other facial features. Once carved they were placed among other objects of veneration on the family
altar, leaning back against a wall. Sacrificial libations including the blood and other byproducts of a slaughtered chicken were splashed on the altar. It
is for these reasons that the front of the Dagari figures are encrusted and mostly not the backs. In fact if you look closely at most examples you can see
drip marks evidencing the angle at which they were positioned. In addition, because the feet and back of the head were typically the three points in
contact with the floor and wall, these areas typically will show the most insect and/or bacteriological damage."