Mahongwe Reliquary Figure

Exhibits: Ancestor Cult
Tribes: Kota peoples, Mahongwe group
Location: North-eastern Gabon
Period: 20th Century
Materials: Brass Discs, 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. This probably belongs to the second type. The almond-shaped face, strongly concaved, is carved in a flat wood construction, completely covered with thin applied brass sheets. It is truncated towards the base, and has a projecting top-knot. Two round convex metallic rings are carved as eyes and fastened nails form the pupils. The nose is a sharp triangle, and the mouth, an incised circle at the bottom. The general decorative design of the ‘face’ is an inter-play of vertical-horizontal lines on the brass plates, emphasized by the treatment of the metal surface, with incised decorative motifs. These include vertical rows of zigzag and dots and drops incised along the medial–vertical brass plate. The diminutive lozenge base can be seen only from the side, and is covered partly with an engraved decorative brass plate. The stem and the top-knot are wrapped with copper wires. 


L. Perrois, Notes on the Bwiti Figures, African Arts, vol 2 no 4, 1969, p 67

 Mahongwe Reliquary Figure
 Mahongwe Reliquary Figure
 Mahongwe Reliquary Figure
 Mahongwe Reliquary Figure