Baule peoples
19th–20th century
more object details

General Description

Baule sculptors carved doors that may have been seen by passersby or that may have been seen by family members only. Whether entrances to houses or to interior rooms, the doors were decorated with secular imagery. The motif of a big fish devouring a smaller fish—a commentary on protecting rather than preying on one's own—adorned a number of doors and may have been carved by the same sculptor or atelier.

A big fish dominates the composition on this domestic door. The sculptor enlivened it by varying the texture of its skin and scales and placing a smaller fish at an angle to one side of its head. The rectangular forms on either side of the fish probably represent framed mirrors. Typical of old African doors, this one has integral posts instead of metal hinges at the top and bottom of one side of the door. (The lower one is missing.) The posts were inserted in holes bored into the doorway. A cord used to open and close the door was inserted through a hole in the fish’s belly. It was eventually replaced by a European-style metal-covered keyhole.

Baule sculptors used the utilitarian objects they carved as advertisements for their skills because the public rarely viewed their sacred sculptures.

Adapted from

  • Roslyn A. Walker, Label text, Arts of Africa, 2015.
  • Roslyn A. Walker, The Arts of Africa at the Dallas Museum of Art (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2009), 224-225.