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Reliquary Figure
Gabon, Kota
Wood and Brass, 57 cm high
Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice 76.2553 PG 245
Photo: Paolo Manusardi, Milan

This head, head ornament and neck with a ring necklace would have been placed in a basket of ancestor bones and other substances imbued with ‘potency’ such as animal bones, herbs and shells. The lower part of the diamond-shaped stand would have been invisible in the basket. Kept in shelters at a distance from the tribe’s village, they were the object of sacrificial offerings. Sometimes the same baskets had divinatory functions, and contained the instruments of the diviner’s craft in place of ancestor relics.

credits: Hangar Design Group