Lobi Dagara / Dagari Figure
- Tribe: Dagara / Dagari
- Origin: Burkina Faso
- Approx Age: Early to Mid 20th Century
- Materials: Wood
- Dimensions cm: 85 tall x 41 wide
- Ref. Number: 0749
A stunning Lobi Dagara figure with a nice age of early to mid 20th century and an encrusted patina from libations. Due to age there is erosion to most of the outer face of the statue. This now displays beautifully with custom made base stands. Dagara also known as Dagari are a sub tribe of the much larger Lobi tribe.
Provenance: Ex Hendrick de Roy Collection
The Lobi migrated into Burkina Faso from present day Ghana around 1770, and many of them crossed the border into contemporary CÃ´te d’Ivoire over the next hundred years or so in search of uncultivated lands. Although Lobi villages are often very independent and so politically disorganized, they managed to put up a strong resistance to French colonialization. They revere spirits known as Thil. Shrines are built to these spirits under the instruction of a sorcerer and placed either on the roof or inside the home and are filed with objects such as vessels, abstract iron figures, stone and wood figures known as Bateba, which are believe to embody the Thil spirits. Dagari figures are the most abstract and symbolic of Lobi Figures.
They are the enigmatic, brooding sculptures that protect the Dagari subgroup of the Lobi people of Burkina Faso. Ranging in size from 22-36″ high, most are frontal, symmetrical and timeless sentinels expressing the traditional beliefs of the Lobi. Several depart from the norm with animated gestures, asymmetry or a great degree of symbolic abstraction.
The figures were placed on family altars in the Thilda, a small sacristy or room in each dwelling. Each figure was not a representation but an actual spirit, or Tibil Thil. It protected the family and home from illness and other misfortunes. The spirit could also be used for divination; it could demand offerings and additions of other figures. The accumulation of statues on a family altar gave social status and were passed on from father to son. Most were frontal and symmetrical, but some have unusually animated gestures.
The Lobi are well documented for their animist beliefs. The worshipping of spirit ancestors and fetishes is distinct in Lobi culture and fetish houses outside their mud compounds are daily practices. Christian missionaries working in southern Burkina Faso are reported to have said that an elderly man in a Lobi village once renounced the spirits in favour of Christianity by discarding his fetishes in a nearby lake. As he turned his back on the traditions, the fetishes leapt out of the lake onto his back again to reclaim him. Lobi people who convert to Christianity or Islam now usually burn their fetishes.
In Lobi animism, Thagba is the creator of all living things. They have no direct contact with Thagba, but are dependent on nature spirits known as thila, invisible intermediaries which can harness their supernatural powers towards good or evil. They set rules zosar which dictate how a Lobi should behave in all aspects of life, but similar to Greek or Roman gods the thila themselves are subject to mortal virtues and vices. In Lobi society there is often a village diviner, a thildar which acts as a village priest in interpreting the rules of the spirits. A particularly intuitive and receptive thildar is capable of interpreting as many as 50 spirits at a time.
Villages typically have several priests; often individuals which specialise in the interpretation of singular spirits rather than multiple, as a chief thildar may.