African art > Reliquary > Kota Reliquary
Figure of reliquary Kota Shamaye (N° 18101)
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.
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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 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 'guardian' relics above the baskets containing the mortuary remains of high-line ancestors. 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. Among 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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