African art > Reliquaries, statues > Kota Reliquary
Figure of Reliquary Kota Mbulu-Ngulu (N° 19937)
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.
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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 remains of high lineage ancestors. In the exclusive presence of initiates, major clan decisions 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.
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