Fly whisk with Janus-faced standing lion

CULTURE:
Baule peoples
DATE:
c. 1920
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General Description

For the Baule peoples, fly whisks have functions beyond swatting away insects—they can be part of the Baule royal regalia. The value placed on this object is apparent from its gilded wooden handle. Red cloth and string are wrapped around the whisk's handle. The fabric's dye has transferred to the horsehair tail over time. A Janus-faced (or two-headed) feline caps the handle while human faces circle its base. Although the double-headed feline could symbolize an ability to confront many things at once, its precise meaning is not known. Fly whisks themselves represented financial wisdom. A Baule proverb compares these instruments to money and warns that, like a whisk in motion, riches are fleeting.

Adapted from

  • Roslyn A. Walker, Label text, Arts of Africa, 2018.

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