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

Did you know?

Historically, figures like this baàthíl were associated with harmful spirits. Less common nowadays, they are used for different reasons, like to relieve suffering from malnutrition.

Description

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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