The Mahongwe people are a branch of the Kota people who live in the extreme northeast of Gabon bordering the Republic of Congo. They are a small tribe numbering between 3,000 and 5,000 and have long remained isolated resisting the penetration of French influence. The Mahongwe practice an ancestor cult (bwiti or bwete) that was at the center of a system of beliefs and rites and ancestor worship formed the core of the family group's religious and social life. Fearful of the deceased, they showed particular devotion to relics of important ancestors of the lineage, guarantors for the protection and survival of the group. At the death of a chief, the initiates would take from the body of the deceased various relics, which then decorated with metal and rubbed with powders of multiple magical powers. These relics, augmented by some "charms" and other power substances, were kept in woven rattan baskets upon which were arranged reliquary figures in wood plated with thin copper or brass strips, plates of wire. Every Mahongwe clan has a reliquary kept in the back of the chief's hut. These reliquary figures were used during initiations to perform communal rituals during which the clan's chief would dance holding it. Mahongwe reliquary figures consists of three distinct sections: the oval, concave face with a projected top knot, the cylindrical neck, and an open work base. The mouth is missing, the heads are large and do not have upper or side pieces. They were considered dangerous to handle because of their role in former funeral rites.
This Mahongwe reliquary figure is in excellent condition and shows signs of use.
Material: Wood, Copper
Measurements: 21" tall, 7" wide