Female Reliquary Figure

Exhibits: Ancestor Cult
Tribes: Lumbo / Punu peoples
Location: Gabon
Period: 20th Century
Materials: Cowrie Shells, Hide, Jute Cloth, Kaolin, Organic Matter, Raffia, Raffia Cords, Raffia Strings, Unknown Relics, Wood

This is a rare and unique example of a complete relic ensemble. The female reliquary guardian figure is still embedded within its original packet at her base, probably holding some organic matter. This figure is related to the well-known mukudj masks of the Punu, Shira and the Lumbo, which immortalized the most revered and admired dead female members of the community. Their lovely idealized faces are imbued with white kaolin, which is associated with the other world, the realm of the dead ancestors.The faminine figure hands are held to her sides, while under each arm, she carries little raffia-cloth bundles or oyster shells to enhance her magical protective charms and to cast away hostile spirits. Lumbo statues are recognized by their elaborate deeply-carved coiffure with heavy braided hair. Typically, as in mukudj masks, this figure has a heart-shaped face, covered in white kaolin, of which little now remains; her closed eyes beneath high arched brows express tranquil, serene introspection, as a connection to the other-world, the land of dead ancestors.


A. LaGamma, Eternal Ancestors, 2007, pp. 286-88; African Art, its background and tradition, 1994, p. 240, cat.28; Art of Africa, 1988, Harry &Abrams publishers, p.562

Female Reliquary Figure
Female Reliquary Figure
Female Reliquary Figure
Female Reliquary Figure