The Bamana of Mali, prior to their conversion to Islam, maintained secret male societies where the potent spiritual values and practices of Bamana culture were practiced, preserved and instructed to young male initiates. Among the ritual paraphernalia associated with these shrines were boli – sculptural objects made of earth, dung, herbs, and other ritual substances. The traditional Bamana believed that boli embodied those potent spiritual elements essential for the protection and promotion of the Bamana themselves.

A people joined together; both body and imagination, to give this object power. They added to the physical thing their history, the narrative of their emergence, their fear of death and disease, their hope for transcendence, their search for epiphany.

James Mcanally, Power Objects at the Pulitzer Foundation of the Arts, 12 July 2012