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Tribal art > African Reliquary > Kota Reliquary
Figure of reliquary Kota Mahongwe (N° 18820)
Incarnating a founder of lineage, this work of great sobriety on its front face is characterized by a concave ogive face surmounted by a small tubular excrescence. The eyes are represented by cabochons pierced with a pupil on either side of a hooked nose. Copper threads line the surface, the whole evoking for some the naja snake. On the posterior part is concentrated an abundant ornamentation of imbricated motifs.
This sculpture is characteristic of the Mahongwe from the extreme northeast of Gabon, on the border with Congo. Baskets containing the relics of illustrious ancestors, usually surmounted by two reliquaries, were kept in village temples. One embodied the founder of the lineage, and the other his descendants.
The cult of ancestors, the Bwete (North Kota), was at the heart of the social and religious life of the Kota and has many analogies with the Fang (North Kota). In the exclusive presence of insiders, the major decisions of the clan were made during ceremonies in which the reliquaries were taken out and used. In order to reactivate the magical charge, the initiates rubbed the relic with sand. Among the Kota , these figures have reached an astounding degree of stylization and abstraction: reduced to shoulders and "arms" surmounted by a large face, the latter can be concave (feminine) or convex (masculine).
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