Kota Artist, Gabon
Reliquary Guardian Figure
Late nineteenth–early twentieth century
Wood, brass, and bone
Fred and Rita Richman Collection
On View - Wieland Pavilion, Lower Level, Gallery 102, African Collection
With intense, vigilant eyes and a brilliant metallic surface, this sculpture has a startling presence. Its flashing brightness honors ancestors with a display of wealth in the form of brass. Like the pair of Fang figures in the High’s Richman Collection, this object was created to protect the relics of important ancestral leaders; it once stood over a bundle of sacred remains, including skulls, bones, and ritually charged medicines, enclosed in a basket. Grouped together, figures like this one guarded all of the relics of a village. Stored in a small house accessible to only a few responsible individuals, reliquary bundles were used to teach youths about the achievements of their ancestors.