The Lobi’s distribution lies in southern Burkina Faso and northern Cote d’Ivoire in West Africa. In the 18th century they migrated to these part from the old Kingdom of Ghana. They were skilled metal workers and much sought after by friends and foes.
The Lobi did not carve or use masks but specialised in the carving of figurines in hard wood. Their statuettes are not strictly effigies of ancestors but have a status between supernatural beings and humans and are called ‘bateba’. Soothsayers and leaders of the family cult used them. The figure’s facial expression manifests calm and dignity and gives an impression of other-worldly detachment. They stand rigidly, arms usually alongside the body, with toes and fingers barely indicated. Buttocks, bellies and calves are well rounded. Eyes are of the cowrie shell type and lips pouting. Pleas to them were to strengthen the petitioners, to intervene on their behalf with the spirits of nature and to protect them in their ventures.