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date: 05 December 2019


  • Philip L. Ravenhill


Akan-speaking peoples, numbering approximately 1,500,000, living mainly in the savanna region between the Bandama and N’zi rivers (the so-called ‘Baule V’) in central Côte d’Ivoire, West Africa. Since 1940, however, there has been significant migration to the southern, forested part of the country in search of land more productive for coffee and cocoa planting. The Baule are bounded to the north by various Senufo and Malinke groups, to the west by different Southern Mande groups (Wan, Guro, Gban, and Yaure) and a Kru group (the Dida), and to the east and south-east by other Akan groups (Ano, Anyi, Abe, and Abiji). In the past the Baule were subsistence farmers and hunters, and artists and artisans practised their crafts in their spare time. They are best known for their anthropomorphic figure sculpture and their masking traditions.

Although Baule art is perceived and shall be discussed here as a separate and distinct style, specific categories of Baule art are historically and stylistically close to the art forms of their neighbours: figurative art and face masks are linked to the art of Southern Mande groups; helmet masks to those of the Southern Mande, Malinke, and Senufo; the art of gold, whether cast or applied as foil to carved wooden objects, to the art of the Akan, notably the Asante; and textile arts to the Southern and Northern Mande....

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