African art > African statues : tribal fetish, maternity > Mbete figure
Ambete reliquary figure, Mbete (N° 20921)
Ancestor worship in the African art of the Mbede, Mbete, or Ambete
Ancestor worship, among the Mbete, is accompanied by these sculpted figures whose dorsal cavity frequently plays the role of a reliquary. This example, however, lacks one. The flat face worn by a ringed neck presents a characteristically distressed physiognomy. The hairstyle is organized in braids gathered in crest. Adjacent to the swollen bust, the arms are folded at right angles. The bending of the muscular legs announces a ritual dance.
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The Mbete are a tribe from Gabon, on the border of the Middle Congo, neighboring the Obamba, whose history has been marked by a long conflict with the Teke. They do not have a centralized political organization, practice ancestor worship and use statues instead of traditional reliquary boxes.
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