Mbete Female Reliquary Figure

Type: figure
Exhibits: Cycle of Life
Tribes: Kota peoples, Mbete group
Location: Gabon / Republic of Congo
Period: Mid 20th Century
Materials: Beads, Bird Head, Bird Legs, Buttons, Copper Nails, Fiber Strings, Iron, Kaolin, Pigments, Wood
Price: Contact Us

This is an exceptional statue. Unfortunately, the door of the figure’s back was missing when I purchased it in Africa, but this is a rare opportunity to discover the mystery of a locked cavity of a reliquary figure. Looking into the cavity at the back, there are a head and two legs of a bird or a chicken, with other ingredients serving probably as a magical potion. And indeed, according to Andre Evens' research from the 1920’s and 1930’s, among Central Mbete there was “an important tradition of relic veneration related to ngoye association, a male cult devoted to hunting, since the hunters played an important role in tribal life". The clan leaders of the Mbete tribe attributed magic powers to their ancestors' relics that were conserved within the hollowed cavity of these wooden figures called mitsitsi-ngoye together with other empowering objects – assisting to bring success in hunting, defense and prosperity in the community’s life” (A. Even cited in  LaGamma 2007:276-7). 

Mbete Female Reliquary Figure
Mbete Female Reliquary Figure
Mbete Female Reliquary Figure