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Reliquary Guardian Figure (Eyema-o-Byeri)

The Fang believe that an individual's vital force resides in the skull, and therefore venerate the skulls of ancestors. In the past, the Fang preserved ancestral skulls and bones in cylindrical containers with wooden figures bound to the lids, to evoke the ancestor and guard the relics. This figure's elongated torso and bulbous limbs are characteristic of the Mvai style. The style of this object's carver is recognizable; additional pieces by his hand can be found in other collections.

Catalogue Description:
The object is a male ancestor figure carved from a single piece of wood wearing a thick copper alloy necklace. The figure was probably attached to a skull basket that was used in connection with ancestor worship. The object is in fair condition. It has several deep splits. One particular split runs from the left side of the buttock, up the spine, over the head, and into the forehead. There in another deep split on the back side of the head. The front half of the proper right foot is missing. From an unknown cause, dry-rot settled on the bottom of the figure under the seat. The original surface is gone leaving a concave depression. The object was fumigated with carbon tetrachloride; the hole was filled with gesso, retouched, and waxed.

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