MBETE RELIQUARY GUARDIANS ARCHIVES, GABON

Old Mbete figures are very rare. Despite their appearance, most of our figures, except for number 1, show no evidence of age or use and were probably made to be sold.

The figures below have been sold and are left here for reference and educational purposes.

For UNSOLD Mbete figures, GO TO MBETE RELIQUARY GUARDIANS PAGE


  

MBETE
Figure 1
SOLD

 

MBETE
Figure 2
SOLD

MBETE
Figure 3
SOLD

MBETE
Figure 4
SOLD

 

MBETE(?)
Figure 6
SOLD

 

MBETE
Figure 9
SOLD

MBETE
Figure 10
SOLD

MBETE
Figure 14
SOLD


 

MBETE
Figure 12
SOLD

MBETE
Figure 13
SOLD


Photographs © Hamill Gallery

MBETE, RELIQUARY FIGURES ARCHIVES, Gabon

The spiritual connection between the living and the dead is given physical form in these reliquary guardians: carved figures that reflect religious views on the cycle of life and death. The living family not only honors the dead with ceremonies and gifts, but through prayer and ritual. They consult the deceased on significant matters such as warfare, infertility and the prevention of illness.

The traditional role of reliquary figures is to protect the ancestral remains which, in the case of the Mbete, were placed in the cavities carved into the backs of the sculptures. Their religion is based principally on the power of ancestral spirits and it was believed that small bones, such as finger bones and pieces of the skull, retained the power of deceased ancestors. By preserving the relics, that power would provide protection and blessing for the family members caring for the remains.

The sculptures are both symbolic and decorative, but the true value and power is credited to the relics held within. This has allowed the removal of such guardian figures without upsetting the significance of traditional belief.

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