African Art
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Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
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Human Figure (Bocio)

early 20th century

Wood, fiber, and feathers

5 5/8 × 1 5/8 × 1 1/4 in. (14.29 × 4.13 × 3.18 cm)
Charles B. Benenson, B.A. 1933, Collection
A bocio, literally “empowered cadaver,” is related to Vodun, a religious belief in mysterious forces that govern the world and the lives of those who reside in it. Vodun sculptures not only protect humans but also empower them. Cords and binding are prominent features of bocios and possibly are references to the trauma resulting from violence suffered in the slave trade that, for centuries, affected the area of their production and use. Bocios offer a potent strategy in responding to difficulty and threatening social conditions.
Guinea Coast, Republic of Benin
Not on view
20th century

Sotheby's, New York, Important Tribal Art, November 29, 1984, lot 277
Charles B. Benenson Collection, donated to Yale University Art Gallery in 2004


Sotheby’s, New York, Important Tribal Art, African, and Oceanic Art, Including the Collection of Mrs. Wilfredo Lam, sale cat. (November 29–30, 1984), lot 277, ill.

“Acquisitions, July 1, 2005–June 30, 2006,” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2006): 222, ill.

Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2004): ill. cover.

Frederick John Lamp, Amanda Maples, and Laura M. Smalligan, Accumulating Histories: African Art from the Charles B. Benenson Collection at the Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2012), 271, ill.

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.