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Sango Reliquary Basket Gabon African Art Gelb Collection

Regular Price: $490.00

Special Price: $350.00

Product #: 111805
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Title Sango Reliquary Basket Gabon African Art Gelb Collection
Type of Object Carving, Figure, Statue, Sculpture
Country of Origin Gabon
People Sango
Materials Wood, copper alloy,vegetal materials, snail shells, fabric, unknown contents under fabric
Approximate Age 20th century
Dimensions Height: 24 Inches
Width: 18 Inches
Depth: 16 Inches
Overall Condition Good. Most of our pieces have spent decades on at least two continents, and have been treasured by several owners.   Small splits, scrapes and cracks are a normal part of their patina attesting to their age and extensive use.  We examine each piece carefully when we receive it and report any damage we find in our listings.  Please look carefully at the pictures which may also reveal condition and damage.
Damage/Repair dirt, tarnished metal, torn and loose raffia strands, ears are broken off


From the collection of Howard Gelb, St. Paul, MN collector of African Art, who was also a businessman, lawyer, and philanthropist. Mr. Gelb died in 2015, at the age of 96.

Additional Information:  
Ancestor worship formed the core of the Kota peoples' religious and social life. At the death of a chief, parts of his body would be decorated with metal and rubbed with magical powders. These would be kept in baskets surmounted by stylized figures which the Europeans called "naja" because they resembled the head of an erect cobra. The figures were covered with copper or brass. At the time of the initiation into the secret society, each clan's chief would dance, holding the reliquary. The reliquaries were kept outside homes, and only the initiates of the lineage had access to this sacred place. The Sango and MaHongwe are linked to the Kota but have developed their own style often identified as 'naja', a European term of identification. The brass sheet and narrow strips covered wooden sculpture were known to the MaHongwe as 'osseyba' and placed on baskets containing the relics of ancestors and to venerate the deceased and recognized members of the lineage. They were used in an ancestor cult known as 'bwete' where the baskets were placed in temples in a village and would generally consist of two figures, one larger than the other. The larger represented the founder of the lineage and the smaller a descendent of the lineage. Sometimes they were 'janus' faced (that is having faces on both sides of the figure) and would represent the two ancestors on one figure. The formal sculptural presentation of the figures were often enhanced by brass sheets worked in a repousse technique (sheet metal worked by pressure from the rear to form a design) and by brass metal strips worked in design across the face of the sculpture. (See Kerchache et al's ART OF AFRICA)

The guardian figures are highly abstracted anthropomorphic sculptures with a flat, quadrilateral shape framing an opening in the wooden body. The geometric abstraction of the body is also repeated in the large, stylized heads. To add to their visual impact the heads are covered with either copper or brass sheeting. It is in the stylistic development of the heads that regional and ethnic variations are most apparent.