Asie Usu (Bush Spirit Figure)

By: Adenike Cosgrove Tagged:


Two primary forms of figure carvings are used by the Baule; asie usu (also called asye usu; literally meaning 'genius of the bush') figures used by diviners (komien) and blolo bian & blolo bia 'spirit spouse figures'. Although similar in appearance, there is one key difference between the two types of figures, asie usu figures usually show signs of sacrificial materials and residue applied directly on their surface.

It is believed that bush spirits (also called asie usu) reside in asie usu figures, the resting place and home for Baule bush spirits. During consultations with clients, Baule diviners make use of these asie usu figures to form a link between the physical world and the spiritual. To understand the cause of problems or misfortunes faced by clients, the komien places an asie usu figure between himself and the client. Through incantations, the komien becomes possessed by the spirit residing in the figure, and this trance makes it clear to the diviner what the issues are, how they can be solved and what the future holds for his client.

When not in use, pairs of asie usu figures are stored in the homes of komien diviners, on bo osu shrines, where sacrifices and offerings are made to the spirits.

Distinguishing Features

  • Dark brown patina
  • Massive and elaborate coiffures; hair brought back in a bun at the back of the head
  • Large head
  • High forehead
  • Facial features incised
  • Almond shaped / semi circular eyes
  • Stretched, columnar neck, sometimes decorated with scars
  • Cylindrical, elongated and rounded torso
  • Arms carved close to body, stretching along the body
  • Hands resting on torso or touching beard
  • Fingers, joints and nails indicated
  • Muscular rounded legs, slightly flexed
  • Knees turned slightly inwards
  • Feet rest on circular base or figure sitting on stool
  • Posture of repose
  • Scarification marks on face and body carved in relief
  • Sacrificial patina, encrusted, mottled surface (palm wine, yam fufu, chicken blood, clay, white kaolin pigment)
  • Some have beaded strands decorating the figure
  • Female figures slightly smaller than male figures

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