Lot: 53

Reliquary guardian figure "éyéma-o-byéri" (Image of the ancestor)

Gabon, Fang - Ntumu

Provenance Size Starting price / estimated price
Galerie Flak, Paris, France
Coll. Borsi, Luxembourg (acquired before 2000)
Robert Lewitzki, Celle, Germany
H: 17.7 inch 60000 EUR / 80000 EUR

wood, base

As a migratory people, the Fang have the custom of gathering the bones and skulls of deceased chiefs and important community members (together with magical substances) into cylindrical bark containers, instead of burying them in graves.

Crowning the containers are figural sculptures, made from wood, believed to embody the guardian spirits of family ancestors held within the containers, "the physical embodiment of their ancestor’s vital force".

These ancestor shrines (container and figure) are known as "nsek byéri" and the guardian figures protecting the shrines are known as "éyéma-o-byéri".

It is believed that these shrines allow the living to communicate with ancestors in the spirit realm through offerings made to the "nsek-byéri" shrines. "Byéri" figures are consulted before important tasks are undertaken and these figures are also used during the initiation of young men into the "byéri" cult. At each ritual act they were smeared with oil or blood and provided with food.

Expo cat.: "Afrikanische Kunst, Sammlung Robert Lewitzki", Bomann-Museum (Hg.), Celle 2012, p. 6

Celler Schloß, Gotische Halle: "Afrikanische Kunst, Sammlung Robert Lewitzki", 10. Juli - 31 August 2012

ADHRC: 0045380