RELIQUARY GUARDIANS, Gabon

MAHONGWE
Guardians
 

 

FANG
Bieri Figures

FANG
Objects
 

FANG
Bieri Heads

BAKOTA
Figures 3

 

BAKOTA
Figures 3

  

MAHONGWE
Figures 2

 

SANGO
Figures

 FANG
Figures 2

 

MBETE
Figures

 

FANG
Posts

RELIQUARY GUARDIANS

Protecting sacred relics (clan founders' skulls & certain bones) and their living descendants with reliquary guardians is a strong tradition of four peoples of Gabon; the Fang, Bakota, Mahongwe and Sango. 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.

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

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 Sango figures, smaller and less familiar than Bakota and Mahongwe religuary guardians, were usually placed in basketry containers holding relics of important clan ancestors. Sheathed in metal (brass or copper), the figures are abstracted into a diamond shape below the neck. Two of the heads are mounted on iron gongs.

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