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Mbulu Ngulu Reliquary Figure






Mbulu Ngulu Reliquary Figure


Early 20th c.


Wood, brass, copper


67.7 x 28 x 19.3 cm


Purchase, gift of Dr. J. Douglas Morgan, inv. 1950.51.F.1


Archeology and World Cultures

From the south of Cameroon to the north of the Republic of the Congo, a number of groups kept the bones of ancestors in bark boxes or baskets. Such relics were venerated in order to ensure the prosperity of the lineage. They were also consulted when important decisions had to be made and during initiations, when young people were taught about their family history. Reliquaries were topped by figures serving as guardians of the bones; their style varied according to the artist, region, or period. Kota sculptures are distinguished by their more abstract forms and use of brass and copper. The oval face, crescent-shaped hairstyle and lateral projections of this work are characteristic of the Obamba subgroup. The creation of such figures ended about the middle of the twentieth century, partly due to the arrival of Christian missionaries and the exodus from rural areas.

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