These enigmatic, brooding figures protect the Lobi people of Burkina
Faso. Ranging in size from 7 - 47" high, most are frontal, symmetrical
and timeless sentinels expressing the traditional beliefs of the Lobi. Several
depart from the norm with animated gestures, asymmetry or a great degree
of symbolic abstraction.
The figures were placed on family altars in the thilda, a small sacristy or room in each dwelling. Each figure was not a representation but an actual spirit, or tibil thil. It protected the family and home from illness and other misfortunes. The spirit could also be used for divination; it could demand offerings and additions of other figures. Rarely, a head is used similarly to the figures. The accumulation of statues on a family altar gave social status and were passed on from father to son.