Lot: 92

Reliquary guardian figure "mbulu-ngulu"

Gabon, Kota, Ndassa

Provenance Size Starting price / estimated price
Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, Virginia, USA
Gottfried Künzi, Oberdorf / Solothurn Switzerland
René Rickli, Olten, Switzerland
H: 27.2 inch 5000 EUR / 10000 EUR

wood, brass and copper sheet, metal clamps and nails, rep., base These statues stood guard in cylindrical bark boxes, on baskets or bundles called "bwete" that contained the skulls and bones of important ancestors. The "bwete" was called on in times of crisis to combat unseen agents of harm. Its intercession was sought in such vital matters as fertility, success in hunting, and in commercial ventures. A husband could use it to guard against his wife’s infidelity, for it was believed that if he placed pieces of her clothing in the reliquary, an unfaithful wife would be driven mad. Families took their "bwete" to ceremonies of neighboring villages to strengthen the allied community. The display of the bundles and their shiny, visually riveting figures was accompanied by feasting, dancing, and the making of protective medicines.


LaGamma, Alisa (ed.), Eternal Ancestors, New York 2007, p. 256
Schädler, Karl-Ferdinand, Afrika, Maske und Skulptur, Olten 1989, ill. 72