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Africa Direct

Fang Byeri Reliquary Figure Gabon African Art 25 Inch

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Title Fang Byeri Reliquary Figure Gabon African Art 25 Inch
Type of Object Carving
Country of Origin Gabon, Equatorial Guinea
People Fang
Materials Wood, brass sheeting (unknown metal content), iron rings
Approximate Age Mid 20th century
Height (in) 25
Width (in) 7.5
Depth (in) 6
Dimensions Height: 25 Inches
Width: 7.5 Inches
Depth: 6 Inches
Overall Condition Fair to 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 some cavities, small chips and scrapes. metal sheeting is tarnished in places. dirt, general wear

Additional Information: A Reliquary Figure (Byeri Figures) from the Fang people (Ntumu Sub-group Northern Fang), Equatorial Guinea. This guardian figure is a seated female with her hands holding a gourd or other object. Her neck and ankles are decorated with simple metal bracelets. The features are noticably Fang, with a protruding and sloped jawline and wide head and hairstyle. This is a very strong sculpture with a lot of presence!

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)