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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.


Kota Obamba reliquary figure
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African art > Reliquaries, statues > Obamba reliquary

Sculptural expression Obamba in African art

Kota ancestor effigy known as mbulu-ngulu , its morphology is similar to the Obamba type. A concave face with a prominent forehead is surrounded by a crescent cap. The whole is plated with metal sheets engraved with repoussé. The base which would represent the arms is only partially covered with metal.
This type of figure surmounted the baskets in which were stored the mortuary relics of ancestors of high lineage, playing in a way the role of guardians called ngulu .
Erosions and cracks of the foot.
In the exclusive presence of initiates, the major decisions of the clan were taken during ceremonies during which the reliquaries were taken out and used by the banganga . In order to reactivate its magical ...


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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 ...

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

Sculptural expression Obamba in African art

Obamba-type Kota ancestor effigy, known as mbulu-ngulu , whose uniqueness lies in the outgrowths in pastilles haloing the face. The sculpture is plated with metal sheets engraved with repoussé. The base which would represent the arms is only partially covered with metal.
This type of figure surmounted the baskets in which were stored the mortuary relics of ancestors of high lineage, playing in a way the role of guardians called ngulu .
Desiccation cracks.
In the exclusive presence of initiates, the major decisions of the clan were taken during ceremonies during which the reliquaries were taken out and used by the banganga . In order to reactivate its magical charge, the initiates rubbed the relic with ...


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Fang Ntumu s ancestor figure of the Byeri
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African art > African statues : tribal fetish, maternity > Statue Fang

Covered with braids gathered in three top shells, the horizontal lips forming a wide pout, this reliquary figure displays the characteristics of the Ntumu style from the regions between Gabon, Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea. Matt oily patina, eroded areas. Lacks in the feet.
Among the Fang of Cameroon and Gabon, each family has a "Byeri", or reliquary box, in which the bones of the ancestors are kept. These boxes were kept by the oldest man in the village, the "esa". The reliquary boxes were surmounted by a statue or a head that acted as a guardian of the "byeri" boxes. These were kept in a dark corner of the box, and were meant to divert evil influences to someone else. They were also used during the initiation ceremonies of young people linked to the "So" society. During ...

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Figure of Fang Ntumu ancestor of the Byeri
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African art > Reliquaries, statues > Fang statue

A prognathic jaw emphasizing a large pout, stocky and rounded limbs evoking the morphology of the newborn, this African sculpture illustrates the Ntumu style statuary of the regions between Gabon, Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea. Shiny black patina, eroded areas.
Among the Fang of Cameroon and Gabon, each family has a "Byeri", or reliquary box, in which the bones of the ancestors are kept. 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 a guardian of the "byeri" boxes. These were kept in a dark corner of the hut, and were intended to divert evil influences to someone else. They were also used during the initiation ceremonies of young people linked to the "So" society. During the ...

Bakota Reliquary Keeper
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African art > Reliquaries, statues > Kota Reliquary

Ex-collection French African art.
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, mbulu-viti , symbolizing the masculine and feminine aspect.
This type of coin was used in the preservation of mortuary remains of high-lineage ancestors in baskets topped with very specific sculptures, which played the role of guardians of the relics named ngulu. 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 ...


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Kota Sangu reliquary figure
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African art > Reliquaries, statues > Kota reliquary

This ritual sculpture, plated with metal sheets according to Kota tradition, forms a stylized image of the ancestor, a coat of arms also for the clan, and is usually distinguished by the shape of the headdress, which varies by 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 ...

Kota Ndasa reliquary figure
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African art > Reliquaries, statues > Kota reliquary

Baskets containing the relics of illustrious ancestors, usually topped by two reliquary sculptures, 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. This sculpture has a headdress representative of the Ndasa of the upper Ogooué valley.
The concave face here offers crescent-shaped eyes each pierced with two pupils. Copper leaves and strips ...

Kota Mbulu Ngulu reliquary figure
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African art > Reliquaries, statues > Kota sculpture

This ritual sculpture, plated with copper leaves according to the Kota/ndasa 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 region. This version has a domed forehead on a concave face, and a large crest headdress extended by lateral shells. The eyes are studded.
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 ...

Kota Mahongwe reliquary figure
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African art > African statues : tribal fetish, maternity > Mahongwe statue

This sculpture, "boho-na-bwete ", decorated with strips and copper wire, is a specificity MaHongwe of the extreme northeast of Gabon, on the border with Congo. Baskets containing the relics of illustrious ancestors, usually topped by two such reliquaries, were kept in village temples. One embodied the founder of the lineage, and the second his descendants. Ancestor worship, the bwete (Northern Kota) was indeed central to the social and religious life of the Kota . It 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 used. In order to reactivate its magical charge, the initiates rubbed the relic with sand. Among the Kota , these figures have reached an astounding ...

Kota reliquary figure from Bweete
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African art > Reliquaries, statues > Kota Reliquary

This stylized wooden sculpture, decorated with copper leaves according to the Kota tradition, evokes the ancestor and forms a coat of arms for the clan. It is generally distinguished by the shape of the headdress, which varies according to the 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.

This type of coins, ...

Byeri Fang reliquary ancestor statue
African art > African statues : tribal fetish, maternity > Fang statue

Fang statues within African art linked to the cult of the Byeri. This anthropomorphic sculpture, intended to be placed in a reliquary basket by the posterior stalk, has a concave face with a prognathic jaw. The importance of the lineage is symbolized by the umbilical tenon and the sex. Two-tone shiny patina, cracks and old restoration on the pelvis.
The boxes containing the relics of illustrious ancestors were guarded by the oldest man in the village, the "esa". Surmounted by a statue or a head that acted as a guardian of the "byeri" boxes, they were stored in a dark corner of the hut, supposed to divert evil influences to someone else. Samples were also taken from the figures for therapeutic purposes. They were also used during the initiation ceremonies of young people linked ...

Bamileke N  Ketuok reliquary statue
African art > African statues : tribal fetish, maternity > Bamileke statue

This carved figure ("N'Kétuok") embodying a male ancestor with a large ovoid head and a thick, stocky morphology, was carved in wood and then covered with a now-cracked clay coating.
A cavity for use as a reliquary was carved out of the back.
Among the Bamiléké as in other ethnic groups, art objects testified to their owner's place in society. Thus, the materials and forms of the objects varied according to social status. The king Bamiléké , also called fon, guarantor of the fertility of the soil and the protection of his subjects, was not considered mortal. Because of this, his funeral was a joyous celebration, with the fon simply physically retiring but still watching over his people from his new home. Located in the border region of Nigeria, Cameroon's Northwestern ...


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Figure of Reliquary Kota Mbulu-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 region. This variant is indeed distinguished by the spheres outlining the contours of the central face, an unusual decorative element.
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 ...

Songye reliquary basket
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African art > Reliquaries, statues > Songye reliquary basket

Former Belgian private collection of African art Jan Putteneers.

In the centre of the room, there is a songye statuette with a face reminiscent of Kifwebe masks. This facies is also similar to that very geometric of some Nkisi protective fetishes.
The statuette is attached to a small terracotta clask itself placed among a multitude of offerings and libations accompanying a tangle of materials and strings.

The Songyes have created impressive statues with powerful features are often used during secret ceremonies, covered with accessories such as feathers, skin and a horn full of magic charge.
Very present in their society, divination allowed to discover the sorcerers and to shed light on the causes of the misfortunes that struck individuals.


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Figure of reliquary Kota Mbulu Ngulu
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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 ...

Kota Mbulu Ngulu reliquary figure
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African art > African statues : tribal fetish, maternity > Kota Reliquary

This ritual sculpture, plated with copper foil according to Kota tradition, forms a stylized image of the ancestor, a coat of arms also for the clan, and is usually 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.

This type of coins, ...

Relic statue Mbete, Ambete
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African art > African statues : tribal fetish, maternity > Statue Ambete

Statues of ancestors in the African art of Mbede, Mbete, or AmbeteThe cult of ancestors, among the Mbete, is accompanied by carved figures frequently playing the role of reliquary. This statue has a dorsal cavity blocked by a shutter. A resin remains in the trunk. The flat side offers the characteristic details: narrow, semi-closed eyelids depicted by cauris, sheltered under slanted eyebrows, a triangular nose extending from the forehead, a narrow hollowed-out mouth. The hairstyle is arranged in braids gathered in shells. The arms on the chest are folded at a right angle. Semi-flexed muscular legs, carried by large feet, evoke a ritual dance. Grainy kaolin patina, chipped, and use of burgundy brown hues.
The Mbete form a people of Gabon, on the border of Middle Congo, neighbouring ...


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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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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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Figure of reliquary Kota Obamba Mbulu-Ngulu
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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, which varies according to region. On this example a ridge separates the cabochon eyes in an ogival face, haloed by a headdress whose protrusion represents the ancient braided ibenda of 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 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, ...





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