Bamana peoples of Mali



Boli Power figure for the Kono society
20th C.
wood and sacrifical materials
15 x 20 1/2 x 9 in.
Boli figures, made from earth, human excrement, animal fur, claws, bark, and venom, as well as other things, are among the most powerful objects in a Bamana village. Hidden away and tended to by a select few, the Boli is at once a terrifying and awesome object, the manifestation of a controlling and all-knowing spirit. The Boli acts as judge, jury and even executioner, effecting decisions that are based on keen, impartial assessment or, even more frighteningly, whim. For this reason the Bamana have been known to refer to the Boli as tyrannical rulers. Its decisions are interpreted by a small group of elders who govern the affairs of the village. By collectively imbuing the Boli with such power and influence, the Bamana attempt to ensure the longevity of their traditional structures of governance which are based on centuries-old systems of checks and balances. In Bamana culture, for example, it is preferable to prevent any one person from acquiring too much wealth as that would put him or her in a position of undue influence. It is expected that wealth will be shared and fear of the Bolis far-reaching power ensures that this redistribution takes place.


20th C.


Bamana peoples of Mali


Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Aaron Nisenson





Bamana peoples of Mali, “Bamana peoples of Mali,” UCSB ADA Museum Omeka, accessed May 28, 2024,