Ancestral guardian figure, from container for ancestral bones

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from Samika area of Gabon, Africa

Postcard of Ancestral guardian figure, from container for ancestral bones.
© National Museums Scotland

Ancestral guardian figure, from container for ancestral bones

This figure was used by the Fang people of Gabon to guard a container in which the bones of prominent ancestors were kept. These sacred reliquaries were kept in special shrines, and the spirits of the ancestors would be called up during special ceremony.

The figure is carved from a single piece of wood. It shows a naked female figure with a jutting mouth and hands clasped in front of her.

Reliquary boxes and baskets containing bones from important ancestors were used by various inhabitants of Gabon and nearby areas. The ancestors were consulted when their advice was needed, and various offerings were made.

Record details

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Online ID: 000-180-000-795-C
Image Rights Holder: National Museums Scotland
Project: 0504: National Museums Scotland Part 2
Project description | View all records in project
Ref: National Museums Scotland  A.1970.90
Date: Probably 20th century
Material: Wood
Dimensions: 16.25" H
What: Bieri / guardian figure
Subject: Miscellaneous
Where: Gabon
Description: Bieri or guardian figure, dark polished wood standing figure: West Africa, Gabon, Fang Tribe
  • Phillips, T (ed). Africa: The Art of a Continent. London: Royal Academy of Arts, 1995, 318-23. 
  • Sheridan, J A (ed). Heaven and Hell and Other Worlds of the Dead. Edinburgh: National Museum of Scotland, 2000. 
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