Fine Mahongwe Reliquary Figure – KOTA BWETE – Gabon

Mid 20th century. Wood sheathed in brass, copper strips. Cm. 54,0 high (cm. 57,5 high on the wooden base); kg 1,7.

The Mahongwe practice an ancestor cult that was at the center of a system of beliefs and rites and ancestor worship formed the core of the family group’s religious and social life. Figures like these were mounted on containers holding relics of important clan ancestors, serving as guardians. These relics, augmented by some “charms” and other power substances, were kept in woven rattan baskets upon which were arranged reliquary figures in wood plated with thin copper or brass strips, plates of wire.

The Mahongwe are a subgroup of the Bakota, who, like the nearby Fang, also make reliquary guardians. They are dedicated to Bwitti, the spirit of the ancestors.

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