Baule Lawle and Gong/Bell

Lawle are used in the Ivory Coast by trance diviners (komien) to strike a flat, flanged iron bell whose steady beat helps to induce and maintain a trance state.

Baule bell mallet

Tribe: Baule

Origin: Ivory Coast

Approx Age: Mid-20th Century

Materials: Wood and metal

Dimensions cm: Lawle 22, bell 24 long

Ref. Number: 1835


An outstanding Baule gong and beater, the wooden beaters/bell mallets are known as Lawle or Lawre waka. Beautifully designed with Baule iconography, faces supporting a fabulous coiffure on either side of the handle and a Bonun Amuin (bush spirit) mask at the top opposite the striking pad with geometric patterning on the flat of the hammer.

Provenance: Ex-Romy Rey Collection, London.



Handheld P-shaped wood beaters like this, known as lawre waka or lawle, are used in the Ivory Coast by diviners (komien) to strike a flat, flanged iron bell whose steady beat helps to induce and maintain a trance state. The entranced speaks with the voices of nature spirits to prescribe cures. The bell’s sound may last for hours, and after it is silenced may resume if the trance begins to wane. The handles of these mallets are typically carved to represent a coil. Still, in this example, that motif has been replaced by an elegantly sculpted female head with an elaborate coiffure. Aligned within the padded crescent-shaped striking portion of the mallet is a Bonun Amuin mask that helps transform a musical accessory into a work of art. Lawle are one of only a few items in which the Baule people incorporate bush spirit masks.

Gong strikers were used by Baule diviners before a divination ritual to trigger the state of awareness that enables them to serve as mediums. “There are two distinct types of gong strikers: kokowa, utilitarian strikers devoid of embellishment, and lawle, intricately carved implements that display their maker’s deliberate aesthetic intentions. In these more elaborate works, the repertory of motifs joined to the handle includes male and female figures, zoomorphic imagery, and bo nun amuin masks (men’s sacred masks kept in bush sanctuaries where women are forbidden to enter).”

References: Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Baule Trance Diviner

Baule female Komien (trance diviner)

Photo credit: Hans Himmelheber

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