African art > African Reliquary > Kota Reliquary
Figure of reliquary Kota Mahongwe (N° 18036)
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.
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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 surmounted by a large face, the latter can be concave (female) or convex (male).
This sculpture is characteristic of the MaHongwe of the extreme north-east of Gabon, on the border of Congo. 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.
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