Colonial Statues

Colonial statues are wooden figurative sculptures within African art, which originated during the colonial period. They originated in West Africa among the Baoulé in Ivory Coast. These statues depict commonly European settlers (for example, civil servants, doctors, soldiers, and technicians) or Africans in Western attire. The figures are often characterized by recurring motifs, such as helmets, suits, official uniforms or tobacco pipes. They are painted in bright colors or they are polished with plant-based paints.

They were rather conceived for indigenous use, not for art collectors. Among the Baoulé, statues in fashionable dress were used in the same manner as other wooden statues to represent a person’s “spirit lover” in the other world. In 1980, in his research, Philip Ravenhill has written: “a Baoulé statue in modern garb is neither a replica of a European nor the expression of a wish for a European other-world lover, but rather a desire that the Baoulé other-world lover exhibit those signs of success or status that characterize a Western-oriented or Western-dominated world”.

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