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Reliquary Figure (Eyema Bieri)

Fang reliquary figures are part of a wide tradition in Gabon related to a cult of the dead. Though practices varied, relics, especially skulls, of important deceased individuals were used in ceremonies connected with appeals to the spirits of the ancestors for guidance and assistance in leading successful lives and in rituals associated with the prevention of malevolent sorcery. Though considered neither a portrait of an individual nor even a generic representation of an ancestor, the figure was placed on the relic container, usually kept in a family shrine, as a visual reminder of the founder of the lineage, and its presence was also believed to protect the relic from harm.

Fang peoples, Gabon
Reliquary Figure (Eyema Bieri)
19th or early 20th century
Wood, wicker
H. 17 ΒΌ in. (43.9 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, 72.141