African art > African statues : tribal fetish, maternity > Fang statue
Fang Byeri reliquary ancestor figure (N° 20158)
The African art of the Byeri cult is illustrated by various anthropomorphic sculptures that act as "guardians" and embody the ancestor.
This female figure has a prognathic jaw that highlights a wide open mouth. Under the joined hands, the tubular excrescence of the abdomen symbolizes the lineage. Satin patina locally grainy.
The boxes containing the relics of illustrious ancestors were guarded by the oldest man in the village, the "esa". Surmounted by a statue or a head that acted as a guardian of the "byeri" boxes, they were stored in a dark corner of the hut, supposed to divert evil influences to someone else. They were also used during the initiation ceremonies of young people linked to the "So" society. During festivals, the statues were separated from their boxes and carried in parade.
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The peoples known as the Fang, or "Pahouins," described as conquering warriors, invaded by successive leaps from village to village the entire vast region between the Sanaga River in Cameroon and the Ogooué River in Gabon between the eighteenth and early twentieth centuries.
In the depths of their huts, in a dark and often smoky nook, the lineage chiefs preciously stored their Byéri, the relic chests and sculptures that "watched over them." The daily life of the Fang had three priorities: to perpetuate social identity, to subsist in a hostile natural environment, and to dialogue with the deceased to keep them away from the living. (Louis Perrois)
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