This page is a record of an exhibit that took place
in 1996. The individual links below will take you to
the CURRENT VERSION of the pages
that formed part of that exhibit.
Protecting sacred relics (clan founders' skulls & certain bones) and their living descendants with reliquary guardians is a strong tradition of three peoples of Gabon; the Fang, Bakota and Mahongwe. Similar in function and power, they differ widely in style.
The Fang create 3-dimensional figures, byeri, known for their childlike proportions and features contrasted with tensed muscles and metal all-seeing eyes. These figures were guardians of the enshrined relics of important ancestors. Sitting on top of the containers, they were also consulted for aid and protection. We include a wide variety of pieces, several on their cylindrical bark boxes, plus some heads and fetish bundles.
FANG, RELIQUARY GUARDIAN FIGURE, Gabon
The Bakota guardians, mwete, are flat, more abstracted, with their oval, concave faces sheathed in metal (brass or copper). Stylized coiffures and occasional repousee work adorn the "legged head" figures (A diamond shape below the neck is an abstracted body form.) which gleamed at night to protect against evil. These figures were mounted on containers holding relics of important clan ancestors, serving as guardians. They were also questioned as oracles. We are exhibiting an impressive collection.
BAKOTA, RELIQUARY FIGURE, Gabon
The Mahongwe reliquaries, bwete, have a tapering shape topped by a crest, are covered by horizontal brass bands or wires, were danced with by new chiefs and dedicated to Bwitti, the spirit of the ancestors.The Mahongwe are a subgroup of the Bakota, and, like them, used these figures as guardians that were mounted on containers holding relics of important clan ancestors.
The Reliquary Guardians Show is open Aug. 3 - Sept.30. To celebrate the new show and welcome you, we are having a Mid-Show Reception, Sat. Sept. 7, from 10 - 2. Coming next: Drums and Shields (Oct. 3-Nov. 30), Janus (Two faced) images (Dec. & Jan.)