Fang Reliquary Guardian Figure

eyema-o- byeri
Type: figure
Exhibits: Cycle of Life
Tribes: Betsi group, Fang peoples
Location: Okano region,Gabon
Period: Mid 20th Century
Materials: Brass Nails, Wood

The ancestor cult (byeri) was worshipped by the Fang peoples of Equatorial Africa (Gabon, Southern Cameroon and Rio Muni). It assured the ancestral protection and benevolence, and to put the uninitiated into contact with the shades of the dead. The ancestors maintained the lineage and village well-being and fertility. According to Fernandez: "The Fang considered the guardians of the relics as both childern and mature men. Thus, the great majority of sculptures such as this figure have infantile or childsh features, a swollen belly, the umbilical hernia, the stylized eyes often round, evoking the wide-open way of gazing of the small child, and by the proportions of the statue whose size of the torso, the large size of the head and the disproportionately small legs, are precisely of an infantile character". In Fang thought "the new-born are particularly close to the ancestors and only gradually weaned away by ritual and time to human status". Another explanation for the infantile quality lies in the primary concern of the ancestral cult in fertility (J. Fernandez, Principles of opposition and vitality in Fang Aesthetics 1966:59).  

Fang Reliquary Guardian Figure
Fang Reliquary Guardian Figure
Fang Reliquary Guardian Figure