Africa Direct
Africa Direct

Fang Reliquary Head Gabon African Art

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Brand Unbranded
Title Fang Reliquary Head Gabon African Art
Type of Object Carving, Figure, Statue, Sculpture
Country of Origin Gabon
People Fang
Materials Wood
Approximate Age 20th century
Height (in) 12
Width (in) 6
Depth (in) 4.5
Dimensions Height: 12 Inches
Width: 6 Inches
Depth: 4.5 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 General wear.

Additional Information:

This example is a well carved head that was probably attached to a basket or a box of relics. This head shape is often identified with figures and masks common throughout a region stretching from Cameroon, through Gabon to the Atlantic coastal area. The function of this interesting and unique old carving is unknown, however due to the quality of carving and the details of the face that are similar to figural images found the family altar we identify it with the Fang Byeri funerary cult.

Byeri reliquary held the bones of ancestors and were venerated through annual ceremonies at which they were present in the form of the sculptures. Photographed as early as 1907 (Tessmann 1913/1972, vol. II) the cult of Byeri began to lose its prominence after 1910 due to French colonial government pressure. In the past figures would often be embellished with native copper bands around arms or wrists and some would hold in front of them miniature ancestor figures or carved animal horns known as Nlakh or small cups used in Byeri rituals honoring ancestors

Recommended Reading:

Siroto, L.  ‘East of the Atlantic, West of the Congo, Art from Equatorial Africa’.  1995.
Louis Perrois, FANG, 5 Continents, 2006.