African art > Reliquaries, statues > Kota sculpture
Kota Mbulu Ngulu reliquary figure (N° 21323)
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.
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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.
This type of coins, 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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