Figure (baàthíl)

Figure (baàthíl)

c. 1900

Wood and organic materials

Overall: 63.6 cm (25 1/16 in.)

Gift in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Ralph M. Coe from various donors 1967.152



This headpost (baàthíl) was likely a temporary sanctuary for khélé, a harmful spirit released after killing a person or dangerous animal. Around 1900, members of the Milkuùr religious association used baàthíla to counteract khélé. While the head resembles that of a teenage girl with pierced upper lip and earlobes, the roughly hewn, pole-like bottom suggests otherwise. Buried in an altar, devotees ritually applied materials that darkened the exposed head. When the owner died, the khélé left the sculpture; no longer sacred, it was buried. Milkuùr’s strict rules ensure these objects are made from the appropriate wood and that artists’ names remain secret.

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