Less known than their Fang, Kwele and Punu neighbors in Gabon, the Tsogo use sculpted ancestor figures and faces to embellish their architectural elements such as house posts, pillars and door frames and lintels. Some of the door frames are plank-like, with highly stylized figures and abstract shapes covering the sides and the horizontal top piece. Most are fully 3-dimensional, with multiple figures or a single figure emerging from an abstract pattern.They are encrusted with cracking paint and offerings and share Fang muscular tension and proportions. Less known than their Fang, Kwele and Punu neighbors in Gabon, the Tsogo use sculpted ancestor figures and faces to harness the power of the ancestors to protect the house.
Tsogo ancestral reliqary figures and heads are connected with the Bwiti men's initiation society. The figures represent ancestors and harnessed their power to protect relics or the home. Many are encrusted with cracking paint and offerings to the ancestors. Many of the figures share the muscular tension found in neighboring and better-known Fang figures.
Tsogo masks are controlled by the Bwiti men's initiation society. The masks represent supernatural beings, each type has its own name and symbolism. They are used in initiation and funeral ceremonies and share the kaolin white surface with their Gabon neighbors, the Fang, Punu and Kwele.
I would like to acknowledge an old friend and colleague, Mr. Aboubakar Sidick El-Hadj Njikam of Cameroon, who collected most of this Tsogo work in the field in Gabon for me. He was a proud, hardworking trader who passed away from a stroke in 2000, just as he was planning his retirement. Like the unknown carvers who created the work we all admire and enjoy, many unrecognized Africans work hard to collect and ship it to us. This exhibition is dedicated to one of those men, my friend Sidick.
Despite their traditional appearance and wonderful patinas, most of these Tsogo sculptures show no evidence of age or use and were probably made to be sold.