Guardian Spirits

Junnette Caldera, Staff Writer

Mesa College offers a wide variety of sacred sculptures from the continent of Africa, dating back to the 16th century. These artifacts are from Sierra Leone most of which are known to be Nomoli figures from the Mende ethnic group.

These sculptures are also known as guardian spirits. Embodied with ancestral energy that helps the respective communities with daily problems, health, blessedness, and welfare.

Dr. Denise Rogers, professor of Art History and manager of the African Art Collection at Mesa College touches base on the artifacts in the LRC on Mesa campus. Rogers informs the audience that these artifacts are so diverse and complex that anyone would be able to make a connection. Making life so much richer by understanding the purpose of theses artifacts across cultures.

Rogers has a Bachelor Degree in African Art, teaching for 16 years at Mesa College. She takes great passion in her work continuing to describe each artifacts meaning and the power behind them. Guardian Spirits came about as guides and protectors watching over everyone. Each piece on display has a connection with the people who come from the groups that produce them, guiding them with sanctity and prosperity.

In addition to the pieces Rogers explains a major African artifact known as a ‘Spirit Spouse’. This piece symbolizes a lover or a husband or wife. This spirit guides and watches over them. Not to mention that each spirit spouse is nurtured and cared for with oil affectionately, because they know they are guiding them and protecting them as they go through their daily lives and struggles.

The exhibitions centerpiece is the Blo Bla artifact also, known as a spirit wife from the Baule people of Cote de I’voire, West Africa. These pieces are seen to be very small with such a major impact understanding the richness within the actual meaning in the pieces and how they are used nurtured and cared for by the person who the spirit it represents.

Similarly, Rogers describes artifacts structured into masks and what they help with. These different masks represent the diversity of this guardian idea. They are used in men’s society to help young boys as they are developing into older men. These masks help transform boys from boyhood into manhood but not only do they transform, the masks transforms as well. The spirit within the mask comes from the male in a dream. Rogers explains that as the dream manifests into the mask and that cycle starts to manifests into different powers that the mask holds, the mask then changes meaning. Transforming the boys to become more powerful as the mask becomes more powerful.

Connecting these relationships with the older men within the society who are guardians to the younger boys. Teaching them to be rival productive citizens within the communities and the masks are representation to how they extol into becoming powerful young men.

These masks can also be women. Teaching the young boys that you not only learn from your guardian male, but you also learn from the women within the community. Evening out the balance in the society with female and male energy.

There are many other African artifacts with very interesting broad powers that can be found at Mesa College in the LRC building if you wish to view them. In exchange for the learning experience about this expansive variety of African culture.