My Bulul are "Replacements" ??? ...what now?!!
Updated: Mar 19
Has this ever happened to you? You've just acquired your first Bulul pair. You can't hide the rush of excitement racing through your veins as you unbox the JRS package that just arrived. You're filled to the brim with endorphins and emotions are running high. You're ready to post your piece on the your favorite Tribal Art FB Group when you decide to browse the historical photos other collectors previously posted. You want to check your that your Bulul is quite unique and worthy of meaningful discussion. Then you see it! The stark resemblance. First the form, and next the facial features; eyes, nose, mouth....the similarity is just too coincidental. So you seek expert advice from more seasoned collectors and consult your runner. The evidence all points to your pair being "Replacements". Your heart sinks and your gut churns acid.
If you've experienced this then join the club certified "noob"! If you haven't, well good for you. The truth is there's really nothing to worry about. All is fine!
"What are replacements?" You might ask. Well generally, replacements are Bulul that literally replaced the formerly-owned Bulul of a particular family. Either the family sold the original pair or they could have been burned in a house fire during the war or simply lost as they were passed on to the next generation.
Usually, the owners will commission them to be carved in the same form and style as the former pair. They can be the same size or even larger at times but one thing is for sure, replacements are not fake! Bulul carved but never used in rituals are just wood carvings. Take note, as long as they have been used in harvest rituals then there's really nothing to worry about. It is the act of the mumbaki (shaman) invoking the spirits to enter the wood carvings that turn them into Bulul. The term is "na Bulul".
Therefore, knowing this, it would now depend on the preference of the collector whether to keep them or dispose of them. While your first instict may be the latter, here are a few points to consider:
1) They are most likely vintage or borderline antique...someday will become truly antique!
2) They have been used in rituals so that makes them legitimate Bulul. Not fake!
3) Remember the form and style that captured your attention in the first place. Reset your perspective.
4) If all else fails, assuming they were not replacements, ask yourself what's unique about them?
I've got a few replacements in my collection to date and I still adore them. Nothing to be ashamed of or sweep under the carpet. At the end of the day it's also about what brings you joy. To quote the cliche: "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder".
Would love to hear your thoughts and comments on this!
Below: more awe-inspiring "replacements"