Kota Reliquary Figure, Gabon
Wood, copper, brass
height 20 1/2in (52cm)
Reportedly John J. Klejmann, New York, 1959
Luis Ignacio Peralta Ramos, Buenos Aires
Encheres Rive Gauche, December 2008
Private Collection, France
This superb mbulu ngulu with elegant proportions and fine details, rises from a pierced diamond base which supports a cylindrical neck beneath an expansive elliptical head with domed over-arching forehead made of copper and brass above domed eyes inset with metal pupils and triangular, projecting nose over a faint smiling mouth, flanked by curved rectangular flanges and crescent above; the reverse decorated with a raised lozenge-form with incised decoration; covered overall in brass save the bottom portion of the diamond base and back; fine aged, dark brown patina.
These unique sculptures among African forms were used to protect and demarcate the revered bones of ancestors. The bones were stored in containers and the mbulu ngulu rested atop this bundle, bound to it at the figure's lozenge-shaped base. Within the kota society, it is believed that the figurative form of the mbulu ngulu communicated the reliquary's intense power.