Carved Figures from Baule, Ivory Coast from Mid 20th Century

baule carved figure
baule carved figure side view

baule carved figure side view

Our collection of carved and painted Baule figures from Mali, Ivory Coast from the mid- twentieth century, have been offered to us over the past 25 years by long and well known acquaintances of ours. One, a picker, and the other an ex-pat from Mali, Ivory Coast, West Africa. While I have no doubt, the picker is fueling one of his artistic obsessions by selling some of the pieces he would have other wise kept, Ali was sending much of his profits home to his extended family.

The Baule believe that each person has a mate of the opposite sex in the otherworld, also known as blolo. The blolo is that place where the Baule people arrive, depart, and return. Representations of the ideal partner are carved in detail including stature and physique to define and portray specific desired signs of beauty, status, age, character. The statue embodies their ideal and provides a physical symbol for offerings and ritual.

Our collection includes several genres of carved figural images, each type has its own meaning as a whole and specifically to the original owner. The significance of the figures can be complex, the figures are only truly relevant to the person who commissioned it. If the person is no longer living, the piece has no function. Or, the reason for the commission may have been temporal in nature, for instance during illness, or following crisis. Even a superficial understanding of these concepts allows one to realize how figures become available as art to collectors interested in the work not only because of the mythology but the individuality, beauty, and spirit conveyed and represented in each statue, particularly the Colonial figures, by skilled and patient carvers.

Hand-woven Raffia and Grass Kuba Cloth from Zaire

Kuba Cloth
Kuba Cloth
Kuba Cloth edge
17″ x 17″ (larger diamond)
Kuba Cloth
Kuba Cloth
18″ x 18″ (small diamond)
Kuba Cloth
Kuba Cloth
18″ x 23″ (zig zag)

The patterns on these three vintage pieces of grass and raffia Kuba cloth are simple yet so intricate given their hand-woven origin. We take much for granted while technology reduces the time involved in the design, planning, and the actual creation of the textiles which provide us with warmth, comfort, or embellishment. The technique employed in making Kuba cloth is similar to that of making a hand knotted carpet or the weaving of a kilim. Rather than knotting or weaving wool, raffia palm is used. The two sides appear different the darker dyed grass pattern is more defined on the front side than the back. Functional, the cloths sometimes serve as individual floor mats.

These Kuba cloths or floor mats are from Zaire, now known a the Democratic Republic of Congo. The process is all by eye and memory. The cloth squares are first woven by the men and then embellished by the women.The center of the design is a cut pile embroidery, they insert tufts of grass into the weave and then clip. Over time, the textured relief becomes more matted.

The African Conservancy states that, “it takes about a month of regular work for a woman to complete a small square of Kuba embroidery using a laborious technique that includes dying, detailed needlework and clipping individual tufts. Except for novices, designs are created as the crafter proceeds, usually elaborating a new combination from the more than 200 familiar patterns known designs, most which are identified by name. The same patterns are used on other Kuba art forms, including wood sculpture, metalworking, mat making, and women’s body scarification. Although the regular interlacing on the background cloth promotes a regular and symmetrical design, Kuba artists favor an improvisational, fluid effect that plays with deliberate asymmetries and pattern variation, creating the exquisite workmanship that distinguishes this native art form.”

The cloth’s pattern is symbolic, tied to the after-life. The precision and correctness of the pattern is also significant, enabling the clan member to be recognized by ancestors in the after-life. The cloths are prized as heirlooms to be passed down from generation to generation.

The abstract patterning is said to have been a “source of inspiration to artists such as Klee, Picasso, and Braque. Matisse was such a fan that he displayed pieces of his extensive Kuba cloth collection on the walls of his studio.”

More specific ethnographic information regarding the process and significance may be found by visiting the site of The African Conservancy.

Daniel Lai

Buddha Tree IV
Thinker in Balcony
Sleeper on Jelly Fish
Kenjio on Etsy is the shop of Daniel Lai an artist based in Knoxville, Tennessee, US. Of Chinese descent, he was born and raised in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. A resident of the U.S. since 2000. He received a MA in Art Studies and Art History, in 2006, among his various intellectual pursuits.

His work has been published in books and magazines. He has achieved national and international awards.

I am drawn intently to the intrinsic intellectual struggle, as well as the sculptural form his work addresses. The choice of words in describing one’s own work is indelibly personal. I asked Daniel Lai to provide an artist statement to describe his glass and paper sculpture, works which he sells at Kenjio – Art for the Soul.


My work is a three-dimensional journal that conveys snippets of my emotions and feelings toward life. The triggers of such emotions and feelings often revolve around the notion of knowledge, life’s necessities, struggles, and relationships. I often get the inspiration from Daoism; therefore, my art often centers on the notion of dichotomous equilibrium, for example, creating by destroying.

I often use words to express my experiences but, naturally for an artist, I find them inadequate to convey how I truly feel. As a result, I translate these words to a visual form that is three dimensional, simplistic, and often relatable to many. I call these sculptures “three dimensional hieroglyphs of my experiences.” Often times, the true meaning of text and words are just beneath that thin layer of their lexical meaning. In other words, we live in a metaphorical world and my sculptures are the visual forms of such metaphors. Returning to my earlier example, I truly do create my art by destroying the material.

Collectible Vintage Patriotic Ceramic Bowl

ceramic bowl

This one of a kind ceramic bowl with relief detail has Americana written all over it! “God Bless America” and an American Eagle are emblazoned on this piece of original folk art with aqua glaze. A true collector’s piece suitable for everyday use for your pooch or as a collectible display piece sure to spark conversation. Signed Elizabeth Smith on the bottom.