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African art - Reliquaries, statues:

In Africa, reliquaries are the guardians of buried ancestors. They may hold bones or the skulls of deceased dignitaries, chiefs or warriors, which are kept in sacred concessions. Reliquaries are also receptacles, often cylindrical wicker baskets, intended for the preservation of relics, a practice that is widespread in Central Africa among the Kota, Fang and Tsogho. Some reliquaries, such as the Ambete, are statues with a receptacle placed in the back.


Figure of reliquary Kota Mbulu Ngulu
African art > Reliquaries, statues > Kota Reliquary

A ritual, stylized figure embodying the ancestor, a coat of arms also for the clan, this sculpture is generally distinguished by the shape of the headdress, which varies according to region. The Kota inhabit the eastern part of Gabon, which is rich in iron ore, and some in the Republic of Congo. The blacksmith, in addition to woodcarving, made tools for agricultural work as well as ritual weapons. The sculptures playing the role of "medium" between the living and the dead who watched over the descendants, were associated with the rites to the bwete, comparable to those of the Fang . They are sometimes bifacial,the mbulu-viti, symbolizing both the masculine and feminine aspect. These types of pieces, named ngulu, acted as "guardians" of the relics above the baskets containing the mortal ...

Figure of Kota reliquary
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African art > Reliquaries, statues > Kota Reliquary

Baskets containing the relics of illustrious ancestors, usually topped by two reliquaries, were kept in village temples. One embodied the founder of the lineage, and the second his descendants. The cult of ancestors, the bwete (Northern Kota) was at the heart of the social and religious life of the Kota and has many analogies with that of the Fang . In the exclusive presence of initiates, the major decisions of the clan were made during ceremonies in which the reliquaries were brought out and used. In order to reactivate its magical charge, the initiates rubbed the relic with sand. Among the Kota , these figures have reached an astounding degree of stylization and abstraction: reduced to shoulders and "arms" surmounted by a large face, the latter may be concave (female) or convex ...


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Figure of ancestor of reliquary Byeri Fang
African art > African statues : tribal fetish, maternity > Statue Fang

Ex-collection of French African art.

Several variants of Fang Byeri statues make up African art.
Female figure embodying an ancestor, éyéma-o-byeri , with an object of power, surmounting a projecting umbilicus. The voluminous head is strongly eroded: the Fang used to mix grated wood with their therapeutic remedies, which they ritually took from the sculptures. Oiled black patina.
The peoples known as the Fang, or "Pahouins", described as conquering warriors, invaded by successive leaps and bounds, from village to village, the entire vast region between the Sanaga in Cameroon and the Ogooué in Gabon, between the 18th and early 20th centuries.
Deep in their huts, in a dark and often smoky corner, the chiefs of lineages preciously stored their Byéri, the relic ...

Fang of Byeri Reliquary
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African art > Reliquaries, statues > Statue Fang

Pahoune sculpture in African art
Property of a Fang lineage, this high-walled bark receptacle, with two small coves, contained the relics of the ancestors, whose spirit is represented by the figures depicted sitting on the lid. One of the guardians solemnly presents an offering horn. Attributes such as the protruding ventral capsule, the crest cap, the multiple necklaces, and the frequent ornamentation of brass nails, distinguish the tribal statuary of the Fang.Wood samples were taken for ritual purposes. Brilliant mahogany brown skate. In the Fang of Cameroon and those of Gabon, each family has a "Byeri", or reliquary box, in which the bones of the ancestors are preserved. These boxes were guarded by the oldest man in the village, the "esa". The reliquary boxes were topped with a ...


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Fang of the Byeri Reliquary Keeper
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African art > Reliquaries, statues > Statue Fang

The African art of the worship of Byeri is illustrated by various anthropomorphic sculptures acting as "garde" and embodying the ancestor. The boxes containing the relics of illustrious ancestors were kept by the oldest man in the village, the "esa". Surmounted by a statue or head that acted as the guardian of the boxes "byeri", they were stored in a dark corner of the box, supposed to divert evil influences to someone else. They were also used during the initiation ceremonies of young people linked to the society " So". During the holidays, the statues were separated from their boxes and paraded. Pre-events were carried out on some statues for therapeutic purposes.
This statuette was intended to be in a basket-reliquaire by the posterior peduncle. Glossy dark patina.
The ...

Relic figure Mashango Bumba
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African art > African statues : tribal fetish, maternity > Mashango Reliquary

Rare reliquary sculpture devoid of the crescent crest usually accompanying this type of pieces. The front of the oval face tilts backwards to extend with a multi-hulled hairstyle. The spectacular neck is also encased with strips of copper and hammered brass. The base of the object is damaged.
Among the shira-punu group, the Massango , Mashango , have established themselves on the Chaillu massif in Gabon and in the province of Ngounié. The use of the bone baskets of the deceased, on which sculptures of this type stood, was widespread throughout Gabon, the Fang, the Kota, but also the Mitsogho and the Massango , in which this cult takes the name of Bumba . The sculptures playing the role of "medium" between the living and the dead who watched over the descendants, were associated with ...

Fang wooden box
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African art > Used objects, pulleys, boxes, loom, awale > Fang Box



This container has a lid topped with three stylized faces reminiscent of the guardian heads of the byeri reliquary. Three fang figures with protective virtues, arms bent, hands clasped, adorn the walls of the box. Since the reliquary boxes contain the bones of the ancestors are most often made up of bark, this wooden sculpture could also have been used as a medicine container or a box dedicated to divination. The internal walls are lined with residues of yellow ochre vegetable oil.
Geometric patterns and parallel lines are engraved on the matte surface. Desication cracks. Indigenous restorations using metal staples.
The peoples known as Fang, or "Pahouins", described as conquering warriors, invaded in successive leaps, from villages to villages, the entire vast ...


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Couple of relic statues Ambete, Mbete
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African art > Reliquaries, statues > Ambete reliquaries

The variety of reliquaries in the African art of Mbete, Ambete .
The Mbete are known for their antropomorphic statues participating in the cult of ancestors on which a reliquary has been built. Their cylindrical abdomen contains, on the back, a cavity sealed by a door in which were preserved small bones of the ancestors of lineage. The diamond face under a crenellated hairstyle depicting the braids has pupils indicated by beads. Attached to the bust, the arms are classically folded at right angles on a trunk that sports a red ochre patina usually extracted from a crushed bark on which remains kaolin. The legs are hidden under a thick raffia loincloth. Desication cracks.

The Mbete are a people from neighbouring Gabon of the Obamba, whose history has been marked by a ...

Pair of Fang Byeri pulleys
African art > Reliquaries, statues > Fang reliquaries

The African art of the cult of Byeri is illustrated by various anthropomorphic sculptures acting as 'guardians' and embodying the ancestor. Ancient loom pulleys fang, adorned with statuettes of reliquary keepers. Beautiful satin patina, residue of abrased polychromy. Erosions of use.
The boxes containing the relics of illustrious ancestors were kept by the oldest man in the village, the esa. Surmounted by a statue or head that acted as the guardian of the 'byeri' boxes, they were stored in a dark corner of the box, supposed to divert evil influences to someone else. They were also used during the initiation ceremonies of young people linked to society. So, so. During the holidays, the statues were separated from their boxes and paraded. Pre-events were carried out on some statues ...


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Ambete reliquary statue, Mbte
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African art > Reliquaries, statues > Ambete Reliquary

Statues of ancestors forming reliquary in the African art of Mbede, Mbete, or Ambete.
This statue has a hollowed-out chest bust for the relics of the ancestors. At the top of the lid the hairstyle consists of parallel sagittal crests and bells adorn the ears. The arms are folded at right angles. Semi-flexed muscular legs, carried by wide feet, one of which has been restored, evoke a ritual dance. Metal sheets are used on the face and arms and punctuate the contours of the lid. Red ochre highs, low kaolin resodus. Erosions, missing on a ridge. Metal staples at the cracks.
The Mbete form a people from Gabon, neighbouring the Obamba and Pounou, on the border of The Middle Congo, whose history has been marked by a long-running conflict against the Teke. They do not have a ...

Figure of reliquary Kota Ngulu
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African art > Reliquaries, statues > Kota Reliquary

This ritual sculpture, plated with copper leaves according to the kota tradition, forms a stylized image of the ancestor, a coat of arms also for the clan, and is generally distinguished by the shape of the headdress, which varies according to the regions. The Kota inhabit the eastern part of Gabon, which is rich in iron ore, and some in the Republic of Congo. The blacksmith, in addition to wood carving, made tools for agricultural work as well as ritual weapons. Sculptures playing the role of 'medium' between the living and the dead who watched over the descendants, were associated with the rites of the bwete, comparable to those of the Fang . They are sometimes bifaces, mbulu-viti, symbolizing both the masculine and feminine aspects. This type of coin, called ngulu, served as a ...

Figure of reliquary Kota Mahongwe
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African art > Reliquaries, statues > Kota Reliquary

The warhead head flanked by a short summit growth carries cabochons pierced by a pupil on either side of a ridge showing the nose. Thin strips of copper and brass alternate on the surface mated by the sand supposed to reactivate the magical power of the reliquary. Foot eroded.
The cult of ancestors, the bwete (North Kota) was at the heart of the social and religious life of the Kota and has many analogies with that of Fang . In the exclusive presence of insiders, the clan's major decisions were made during ceremonies during which the reliquaries were taken out and used. In order to reactivate the magical charge, the initiates rubbed the relic with sand. In the Kota , these figures have achieved a staggering degree of stylization and abstraction: reduced to the shoulders and arms ...

Figure of reliquary Kota Shamaye
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African art > Reliquaries, statues > Kota Reliquary

This ritual sculpture, plated with brass-brass leaves according to the kota tradition, forms a stylized image of the ancestor, a coat of arms also for the clan, and is generally distinguished by the shape of the headdress, which varies according to the regions. On this copy, an ridge separates the eyes in cabochons in a warhead face, with a two-hulled headdress typical of the Shamaye of the Ivindo basin. The outgrowth is the former ibenda braided by dignitaries.
The Kota inhabit the eastern part of Gabon, which is rich in iron ore, and some in the Republic of Congo. The blacksmith, in addition to wood carving, made tools for agricultural work as well as ritual weapons. Sculptures playing the role of 'medium' between the living and the dead who watched over the descendants, were ...

Figure of Kota reliquary
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African art > Reliquaries, statues > Figure Kota

This ritual sculpture, plated with brass-brass leaves according to the kota tradition, forms a stylized image of the ancestor, a coat of arms also for the clan, and is generally distinguished by the shape of the headdress, which varies according to the regions. The Kota inhabit the eastern part of Gabon, which is rich in iron ore, and some in the Republic of Congo. The blacksmith, in addition to wood carving, made tools for agricultural work as well as ritual weapons. Sculptures playing the role of 'medium' between the living and the dead who watched over the descendants, were associated with the rites of the bwete, comparable to those of the Fang . They are sometimes bifaces, mbulu-viti, symbolizing both the masculine and feminine aspects. This type of coin, called ngulu, served as a ...


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Figure of Kota reliquary
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African art > Reliquaries, statues > Kota Reliquary

The baskets containing the relics of illustrious ancestors, usually surmounted by two reliquaries, were kept in temples in the village. One was the founder of the lineage, and the second his descendants. The cult of ancestors, the bwete (North Kota) was at the heart of the social and religious life of the Kota and has many analogies with that of the Fang. In the exclusive presence of insiders, the clan's major decisions were made during ceremonies during which the reliquaries were taken out and used. In order to reactivate the magical charge, the initiates rubbed the relic with sand. In the Kota , these figures have achieved a staggering degree of stylization and abstraction: reduced to the shoulders and arms surmounted by a large face, the latter can be concave (female) or convex (male). ...


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Head of reliquary Betsi Nlo Angokh
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African art > Reliquaries, statues > Head Fang

African art and funeral rites
A large head with the concave face characteristic of the Betsi style, with cabochon pupils, is topped with braids accessorized with metallic bells. Restorations were carried out using resin and metal staples. Mate crusty patina.
Fach the Fangs of Cameroon and Gabon, each family has a Byeri, or reliquary box, in which the bones of ancestors are preserved. These boxes were guarded by the oldest man in the village, the esa. The reliquary boxes were surmounted by a statue or a head that acted as the guardian of the 'byeri' boxes. These were kept in a dark corner of the box, and were intended to divert evil influences to someone else. They were also used during the initiation ceremonies of young people linked to society. So, so. The term Angokh means ...

Reliquary figure Kota
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African art > Reliquaries, statues > Figure Kota

The cult of ancestors, the bwete (Northern Kota) was at the heart of the social and religious life of the Kota and has many analogies with that of the Fang. In the exclusive presence of insiders, the clan's major decisions were made during ceremonies during which the reliquaries were taken out and used. In order to reactivate the magic charge, the initiates rubbed the relic with sand. In the Kota, these figures have reached a degree of stylization and amazing abstraction: reduced to the shoulders and to the "Bras" topped by a large face, the latter can be concave (female) or convex (male).


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Yoruba Altar
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African art > Reliquaries, statues > Yoruba Altar

Yoruba statuary in African art

Oyo and Ijebu was born following the disappearance of the civilization Ifé and are still the basis of the political structure of the Yoruba. The Oyo created two cults centered on the ever-active Egungun and Sango societies, which worship their gods through ceremonies using masks, statuettes, sceptres and divination supports.

When the masks are not worn, they are placed on altars where they receive libations and prayers.
On a hollow base adorned with the faces of Orunmila god of divination but also perhaps of the divine messenger Esu, a group of characters is carved in round-bump. A pregnant woman sits in a chair in front of a second female figure standing. Four other miniature female figures, wearing ridges, kneel around them. ...


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Reliquary figure Kota
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African art > Reliquaries, statues > Kota Reliquary

This ritual sculpture, plated with copper-brass leaves according to the kota tradition, forms a stylized image of the ancestor, a coat of arms also for the clan, and is generally distinguished by the shape of the headdress, varying according to the regions. The Kota live in the eastern part of Gabon, which is rich in iron ore, and some in the Republic of Congo. The blacksmith, in addition to wood carving, made tools for agricultural work as well as ritual weapons. The sculptures playing the role of "medium" between the living and the dead who watched over the descendants, were associated with the rites of the bwete , comparable to those of the Fang . They are sometimes bifaces, the mbulu-viti, symbolizing the masculine and feminine aspect at the same time. This type of coin was used in ...


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Fang Sculpture of the Byeri
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African art > African statues : tribal fetish, maternity > Statue Fang

Br-Guardians of reliquary in the African art of Gabon
This male figure embodying the spirit of the ancestors was destined to be fixed, fixed by means of the posterior peduncle, on the basket containing the relics of the ancestors. The character is wearing a hairstyle composed of braids gathered in shells. This tribal sculpture, preserved by the esa, the oldest man in the family, has an omblical outgrowth symbolizing the filial bond. Various restorations have been undertaken through wicker links. Smooth and shiny patina. This type of object was placed in a dark corner of the box. The relics of the most remarkable ancestors were kept in cylindrical bark boxes near the layer of the lineage chief, initiated by the family cult of the Byri . Surmounted by a human effigy that affirmed ...

Reliquary figure Kota
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African art > African statues : tribal fetish, maternity > Figure Kota

With a long crest of large flat side shells, this singular concave face overhanging an ovoid forehead is plated with gold and red brown copper leaves. A fine cling and upholstery nails make the whole thing adhere to the wooden soul. The ensemble is highlighted with carefully engraved geometric patterns, consisting of ornamental friezes.
The Kota of the Sebe Valley, located in Gabon but also in Congo, produced this type of sculpture that played the role of "medium" between the living and the dead and continued to watch over their descendants. They are sometimes bifaces, the mbulu-viti , symbolizing the masculine and feminine aspect at the same time. This type of coin was used in the preservation of mortuary remains of high-lineage ancestors in baskets topped with very specific ...


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