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Fang Byeri Reliquary Figure Gabon African Art 23 Inch

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Title Fang Byeri Reliquary Figure Gabon African Art 23 Inch
Type of Object Carving
Country of Origin Gabon, Equatorial Guinea
People Fang
Materials Wood, brass sheeting (unknown metal content), iron rings
Approximate Age 20th century
Height (in) 23
Width (in) 6.5
Dimensions Height: 23 Inches
Width: 6.5 Inches
Overall Condition Fair
Damage/Repair Cracks, chips and a well worn patina

Additional Information: As sculptures, these Byeri figures stand out as a fine example of good carving in a later Fang style, and the sculptural detail is testament to the Fang artist who shaped them. Fang memorial sculpture has a long history of use and was in fact photographed as early as 1907 (Tessmann 1913/1972, vol. II). However the cult of Byeri began to lose its prominence after 1910 due to colonial government pressure. During migrations which took place in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the Fang people moved to their present area becoming part of a complex overlay of population of approximately 200,000 which stretches from southern Cameroon into Gabon and Equatorial Guinea. Living in small forest communities, the Fang focused upon tightly knit kinship and lineage systems. Stressing continuity and relationships, the kinship system was employed to emphasize the veneration of ancestors through the use of figurative sculptures. Each lineage's ancestors were located in family shrines, housing memorials or reliquary boxes known as byeri, containing their bones, under the care of an elder known as the Esa. The ancestors were consulted before any serious event such as hunting, traveling, marriage, war, or planting was undertaken. The Esa, the shrine keeper, was the oldest living member of the clan and thereby closest to the ancestors. Containers made of either bark or woven basketry known as nsekh byeri were surmounted by sculpted figures known as eyema-o-byeri that guarded the remains.The container would also become a repository for magical devices ranging from tree bark to jewelry and when not in actual use. The sculpted figures such as this were generally hidden from view.

Recommended Reading: Binet, J. Societes de danse chez les Fang, Paris, (1972).Fernandez, J. 'La statuaire Fang-Gabon', African Arts, 8, No.1, (1974).Fernandez, J. W. and R. L. 'Fang Reliquary Art: Its Quantities and Qualities.' Cahiers d'etudes africaines, 15, No. 5. (1975).Perrois, L. Statuaire fang, Paris. (1972).Perrois, L. Sculpture traditionelle du Gabon, Paris. (1977).Tessmann, G. Die Pangwe, Berlin and New York. 1913(1972)