Mbete Reliquary Figure

Type: figure
Exhibits: Cycle of Life
Tribes: Kota peoples, Mbete group
Location: Gabon / Republic of Congo
Period: Mid 20th Century
Materials: Feathers, Fiber Threads, Iron, Metal, Metal Bell, Pigments, Raffia, Unknown Relics, White Kaolin, Wood

This sculpture belongs to the genre of figurative receptacles with interior cavities at their back. This figure has a flat visage with highly abstract representation. It includes a sloped white forehead with a red lower half, contrasted with a black coiffure, covering the head by a succession of carved horizontal ridges. The solid barrel-like body applied with white kaolin, is juxtaposed with diminutive arms at right angles at either side. The heavy lower body is covered with a raffia garment. At the chest level, a fiber is threaded through holes to suspend a cast-metal conic bell, which may have served to wake the spirits of the dead ancestors within, to draw their attention for their invocations. A feather is inserted at the back of the head. These reliquary sculptures were connected with ancestor cult, assisting in bringing success to hunting, defense and prosperity in community life (A. LaGamma 2007:269)

Mbete Reliquary Figure
Mbete Reliquary Figure
Mbete Reliquary Figure