Lot: 293

Reliquary guardian figure "mbulu-ngulu"

Gabon, Kota - Obamba

Provenance Size Starting price / estimated price
H: 20.1 inch 8000 EUR / 15000 EUR

wood, copper sheet, kaolin, addition below the diamond-shaped handle

The Kota have the custom of gathering the bones, skulls and other relics of deceased chiefs and important community members (together with magical substances) into woven rattan baskets. These containers, "bwete", are topped by figurative sculptures made of wood and brass, which are believed to embody the ancestral guardian spirits that reside in the containers.

Ensembles of ancestor shrine and guardian figure are known as "mbulu ngulu", "mboy" or "bwiti". These shrines were meant to enable the living to communicate with the ancestors of the spirit realm through offerings. The practice of ancestor worship (also called "bwete") ensures the protection and survival of the family group. Ancestors are also prayed to, through their "bwete" shrines, to help alleviate misfortune or sickness.