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Currently shown

Mbulu Ngulu Reliquary Figure

Location

GABON, HAUT-OGOOUÉ

Culture

Kota-Obamba

Title

Mbulu Ngulu Reliquary Figure

Date

Early 20th c.

Materials

Wood, brass, copper

Dimensions

67.7 x 28 x 19.3 cm

Credits

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

Collection

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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