This object was designed and constructed by the Balu, a mountainous, rainforest People inhabiting the Republics of Gabon and Cameroon. The Balu live close to the last, remaining African habitats of mountain gorillas and other large primate species. These beasts are central to the Balu belief system, and are culturally conceptualized as keepers of souls of the dead – who watch their daily movements. By cultural tradition, the village, Balu priest would “order a wooden figure from the carver, then endow it with power to be discharged during rituals, whereby medicines or magically-charged materials were attached. The empowering substances could be inserted into cavities on the head or between the legs. In addition to carved figures, objects including shells, horns, cloth-bags, gourds and clay pots were used as containers for this material” (Hobbs 1999).
Hobbs, Victoria. 1999. “The Function of a ‘Fetish’ Figure.” Conservation Journal.