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Tribal art > African Reliquary > Ngata Reliquary

Anthropomorphic reliquary Bonganga Ntombe (N° 18944)

Named Bonganga or Efomba according to the authors, these anthropomorphic coffins were intended to receive the remains of dignitaries of the Ngata ethnic group. As in Ancient Egypt, this type of sarcophagus was ordered during their lifetime by high-ranking persons. These sculptures " bonganga-nganga " are characterized by a polychromy and a beautiful alternation of geometrical patterns underlined by a decorative nailing. This ornamentation resumes the traditional scarification, tattoos, paintings and textiles that the deceased appears. The trunk, established on short massive legs, serves as a receptacle that closes a flap on the back. The bent arms are positioned glued to the bust. A head surmounts the whole. Housed in the rear reliquary, instead of the bones of the deceased, a wooden skeletal effigy appears in the center of a bed of straw. Smaller in size than those dedicated to great chiefs (some as tall as 2 meters), this type of sculpture may have been dedicated to family worship, not placed on the tomb of the deceased.
Views differ as to the exact origin of these coffins. Engels describes them first and attributes them to the Ngata who, according to Hulsaert later, are in fact only Ntomba living in the village of Wangata wa Ibonga, in the D.R.C. According to Engels, the creation of these funerary pieces was carried out according to a precise ritual: a closed association named bonganga made up of a sculptor and a group of men accompanied by their wives worked there for several months in a temporary camp called esata in the forest, away from the village. Hulsaert denies this theory and claims that Engels confused the names of the place, the association and the ethnic group. Bonganga then meaning the sacred place where coffins are made and efomba being the name of the coffin itself.  

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Originex-collection allemande
Countryrdc ex zaire
Material(s)wood, metal, plant fibre
Weight19.00 Kg
Estimated datingmid-xx°

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