The Cleveland Museum of Art

Collection Online as of February 23, 2024

Male Figure from a Pair (asye usu)

Male Figure from a Pair (asye usu)

late 1800s–early 1900s

Did You Know?

Baule artists looked to the world around them to capture contemporary ideas and ideals of beauty; this figure's hairstyle would have been worn when the sculpture was carved.


Baule figures carved as pairs usually represent untamed spirits of the wilderness called asye usu. These spirits may intervene in the lives of individuals by taking possession of them. If this possession does not result in madness, it can lead to the human host’s becoming a diviner who can enter into a trance to reveal the causes of ailments and other misfortunes. People who feel their lives are being interrupted by the asye usu commission carvings representing idealized male and female forms whose grace and beauty in both anatomy and adornment will seduce the spirits and compel them to use the sculptures as their temporary homes.
  • ?-1971
    Katherine C. White (aka Katherine Merkel, Katherine Reswick)
    The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH by gift
  • Petridis, Constantijn. South of the Sahara: selected works of African art. Cleveland: Cleveland Museum of Art, 2003. Reproduced: cat. 17, p. 64 - 65
  • Object in Focus: Male and Female Spirit Spouse Figures. The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH (organizer) (January 7-March 9, 2003).
    African Master Carvers: Known and Famous. The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH (organizer) (March 26-July 16, 2017).
    CMA 1968: "African Tribal Images: The Katherine White Reswick Collection," cat. no. 85, repr.
    CMA 1973: "Year in Review 1972," CMA Bulletin LX (March, 1973), p. 107, no. 38, repr. p. 105.
    Cleveland, Ohio: The Cleveland Museum of Art; January 7- March 9, 2003. " Object in Focus: Male (blolo bian) and Female (blolo bla) Spirit Partner Figures, Africa, Ivory Coast, Baule, c. 1930s [wood; 1971.297.1-2] "
    The Cleveland Museum of Art (3/26/2017-7/16/2017); “African Master Carvers: Known and Famous”.
  • {{cite web|title=Male Figure from a Pair (asye usu)|url=false|author=|year=late 1800s–early 1900s|access-date=23 February 2024|publisher=Cleveland Museum of Art}}

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