Mahongwe Reliquary Figure

Exhibits: Ancestor Cult
Tribes: Kota peoples, Mahongwe group
Location: North-eastern Gabon
Period: 20th Century
Materials: Brass Nails, Brass Strips and Plates, Copper Wire, Wood
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According to L. Perrois, the Kota-Mahongwe carved two types of bwete sculptures. The large figures represent the founding fathers, while the small ones depict members of the families. The sculptures had specific names known to the entire village. The current figure probably belongs to the second type. This anthropomorphic, almost abstract sculpture is very impressive. It is made of a flat wooden construction in a leaf-like shape, slightly concave. Horizontally, it is covered entirely with brass strips, and with brass plates on its back. It is carved with decorative motifs. According to Meyer, "The figurine suggests a spirit world entirely separate from the world of the living… therefore …only sight functions, with the round eyes set low." The vertical brass threads beneath the eyes may represent ’tears’. The mouth is designed only as a cut, "there is no message from the other world." The nose is reduced to a tiny blade and the chignon may recall the traditional hairstyle of the old Mahongwe initiates.




L.Perrois, Notes on the Bwiti Figures, African Arts, vol 2 no 4, 1969, p 67; L.Meyer, Black Africa, 1992, pp. 133- 4

 Mahongwe Reliquary Figure
 Mahongwe Reliquary Figure
 Mahongwe Reliquary Figure