How do artists’ choices of materials assign identity and meaning to works of art? How does meaning assign material? In this excerpt from one of my museum tours, I explore the meaningful materials in a Boli Ritual Object of the Bamana people in Mali, Africa. This recording comes complete with all the juicy, unscripted, live-action museum gallery accents including background chatter and beeping proximity alarms.
Permanent collection label:
Bamana sculpture often functions as a mediating force between the spirit and human realms. Ritual objects, such as this amorphously shaped boli, are commissioned and cared for by age-grade associations. A boli has a wood core wrapped with cotton cloth, into which spiritually charged packets are bound. Sacrificial materials, including animal blood and grains, are applied to its surface, giving it a crusty exterior. These sacrifices symbolize the layering of secret knowledge, imbuing the boli with nyama (life force). A boli is stored with other sacred objects in a shrine house and may only be seen by members of the association to which it belongs.