Reliquary figure (nbulu ngulu)

Kota peoples
19th–20th century
more object details

General Description

Although this figure is highly abstract, it represents an ancestor of the Kota peoples. The Kota believed that the strength and wisdom of their ancestors survived after death, so they preserved their ancestors' skulls and certain bones. This guardian figure, made of wood and covered with precious copper and brass, was thrust into a basket containing these sacred relics. Notice the wide-open eyes in the simplified face, which suggests that the figure is a vigilant guard.

Ancestors were contacted to ensure the well-being of individuals as well as the village, and in times of great distress all reliquaries were brought together to combine the powers of all of the important dead.

Excerpt from

Roslyn A. Walker, Label text, Arts of Africa, 2006.