Reliquary Figure

Mbulu Ngulu
Exhibits: Ancestor Cult
Tribes: Kota peoples, Obamba group
Location: Gabon
Period: 20th Century
Materials: Brass Nails, Brass Strips and Plates, Copper Sheets, Wood
Price: Contact Us

The Kota reliquary figures guarding reliquary baskets (bwete) containing the bones of venerated deceased ancestors, have been well known and appreciated, since the beginning of European interest in African art (L. Perrois). Typical features that underlie the composition of the enormous variety of Kota sculptural elements are: "the upper limits are encased in costly metals and lower terminate in unadorned open-work lozenge configuration. The representation of the head is defined in great detail, while the body is limited to a minimal lozenge". The bwete were kept in a special cupboard at the back of the chief's house and during the initiation ceremonies were the focus of offerings and prayers, aimed at bringing good fortune to the clan.


L. Perrois, African Art, 1988, p.208, fig.66; A. LaGamma, Eternal Ancestors, 2007, p.36; J. B. Bacquart, The Tribal arts of Africa, 1998,p.120.

 Reliquary Figure
 Reliquary Figure