Mahongwe Reliquary Figure

Type: figure
Exhibits: Cycle of Life
Tribes: Kota peoples, Mahongwe group
Location: North-eastern Gabon
Period: 20th Century
Materials: Brass, Wood

The Mahongwe Bwete figures are one of the most highly abstract forms in traditional African Sculpture. Their extreme departure from naturalistic representation influenced the Cubists (Picasso) and other pioneers of Modern Art movement in Europe. On special occasion such as festivals or times of misfortune, the ancestor reliquaries were invoked to strengthen the community magically, ensuring their benevolent protection and to increase fertility, success and good health. Each notable of a Mahongwe lineage would bring his bwete reliquary ensemble, displaying it in the village square with all the bwete of the clan (20 to 30). The reliquary basket would be fortified with a red powder and sacrificial food. Each lineage head would perform a dance holding his ensemble, dressed in red raffia costume adorned with a touraco feather in his headdress (J. Bacquart 1998:120; L. Perrois 1988:213)

Mahongwe Reliquary Figure
Mahongwe Reliquary Figure