The Lobi is an ethnic group of about 160.000 people who are located today in Burkina Faso, the northern parts of Ghana and the Ivory coast. The Sculpture-Museum Marl exhibition lasted until the 19th of April 2011. Their sculptures were firstly known in Europe during the end of the 18th century. Based on the spiritual meaning and the late recovery of the Lobi, there are only few of its sculptures in Europe and most of which are private collections. So, it is not a wonder that Germany just held its fourth exhibition since the last 30 years and the center point of this exhibition was focused on the art of the Lobi.
The word “Bateba” means carved images and has a deep ritual function, so it is difficult to think of them just as art. Every member of the Lobi could be chosen to whittle a sculpture. Indeed, there are some rules how a Bateba has to look like but because whittling is not a handicraft for the Lobi there is a huge variety of looks and forms of these sculptures.
For the Lobi the Batebas plays an important role in their religion. They think that the sculptures are inhabited by spirits which protects them from certain things when invoked. for sorrows,
Like everywhere in Africa, they carve lots of animal figures. But they also have spiritual functions. Carving of birds are very popular, they are seen as means of communication between the spirits and men. Every time a Lobi hears the call of this bird, he immediately seeks his clairvoyant, who has to explain what the warning means. In contrast to the Bateba, the sculptures of the birds have lost their symbolic meaning. The Lobis´ don´t think that the figures get alive, they just represent the real bird which is unseen.
For the Lobis´, this kind of art is not for decoration as it has special spiritual purposes… So, it is not important if or not a Bateba is very beautiful. Infact for their different reasons, they have the Betaba Yadawora meaning-a sad image, Betaba Bambar which means paralysed image, Betaba Ti Puo which means dangerous image and so on. A good Bateba is the one which looks kind of human but depending on its special function, it may have two heads or four arms, which is not really humanlike. These sculptures are not art works in the world of the Lobis´ so it makes it difficult for them to see with the eyes of aesthetics. The producers of these figures are not artists. The Lobis´ are ´mainly farmers and anybody if talented, could produce a sculpture.