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Divination Object (Gbaule)

Arts of Africa

This object creates a frightening and otherworldly effect. Gbaule are divination objects used by the We to determine the causes of illness and to identify evil forces. A diviner holds the gbaule while in a trance. He is asked questions, and the movement of the gbaule indicates a response.

The divination society associated with this object was created by a man of the neighboring Krou people who had served as a soldier in France in World War I, and it became quite popular in the following decade. This origin explains why a head such as this one is also called a commandant.
MEDIUM Clay, feathers, porcupine quills, cloth, aluminum, cowrie shells, leather, glass, rattan, rice heads, hair, wood, pigment
DATES early 20th century
DIMENSIONS 22 1/2 x 16 1/2 x 3 1/2 in. (57.2 x 41.9 x 8.9 cm)  (show scale)
COLLECTIONS Arts of Africa
CREDIT LINE Gift of Blake Robinson
CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION The humanoid face is made of clay with aluminum eyebrows and a ridge on the forehead. The eyes are of cowry shell. A band of orange pigment extends across the eyes. The face is attached to a rattan structure with a loop at the lower end. The back side is covered with leather and a loop with cloth to which cowry shells are attached. The coiffure of the face is composed of tufts of cow's tail hair, feathers, and heads of rice. The four teeth are pieces of glass. Condition: stable but fragile.
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
CAPTION We. Divination Object (Gbaule), early 20th century. Clay, feathers, porcupine quills, cloth, aluminum, cowrie shells, leather, glass, rattan, rice heads, hair, wood, pigment, 22 1/2 x 16 1/2 x 3 1/2 in. (57.2 x 41.9 x 8.9 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Blake Robinson, 1992.196.3. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 1992.196.3_edited_SL1.jpg)
IMAGE overall, 1992.196.3_edited_SL1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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