Kota Janus–Faced Reliquary

Mbulu Viti
Type: head
Exhibits: Cycle of Life
Tribes: Kota peoples, Obamba / Mindumu group
Location: Gabon / north-west Republic of Congo
Period: 20th Century
Materials: Brass, Copper, Wood

This dual faced Mbulu Viti figure was a guardian of honorable ancestors' relics, positioned above and attached to a reliquary basket. Janus-faced representations are not unusual in north-western Congo. But the significance of the double-face remains an enigma. One suggestion: the concave represents female and the convex a male. But it appears that such figures related more to ritual, magical and religious efficacy than to any distinction between sexes. They were invoked in times of distress, such as the death, sickness, infertility or hunger. Janus Mbulu Viti figures were considered especially effective for their ability to anticipate danger from any direction. The convex face has realistic presence with fierce expression, the concave face has calm abstracted visage.

Kota Janus–Faced Reliquary
Kota Janus–Faced Reliquary