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Reliquary Guardian Figure (Boumba Bwiti)

Arts of Africa

On View: African Storage Annex, East Gallery, 1st Floor

The Tsogho, like other groups in Gabon, construct bundles, often decorated with carved figures, to contain the remains of important ancestors and other powerful materials. Among the Tsogho, these bundles commemorate specific ancestors. Periodically, offerings are made to the reliquary, or boumba bwiti, to honor the ancestor and other members of the lineage. Families may also use the figures during initiations.

MEDIUM Wood, raffia, metal, bark cloth, glass, feathers
  • Place Made: Gabon
  • DATES late 19th or early 20th century
    DIMENSIONS 12 x 7 1/2 in. (30.5 x 18.4 cm)  (show scale)
    COLLECTIONS Arts of Africa
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is on view in African Storage Annex, East Gallery, 1st Floor
    CREDIT LINE Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John A. Friede
    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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    CAPTION Tsogho. Reliquary Guardian Figure (Boumba Bwiti), late 19th or early 20th century. Wood, raffia, metal, bark cloth, glass, feathers, 12 x 7 1/2 in. (30.5 x 18.4 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John A. Friede, 74.121.7. Creative Commons-BY
    IMAGE x-ray, CONS.74.121.7_xrs_view01.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
    "CUR" at the beginning of an image file name means that the image was created by a curatorial staff member. These study images may be digital point-and-shoot photographs, when we don\'t yet have high-quality studio photography, or they may be scans of older negatives, slides, or photographic prints, providing historical documentation of the object.
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Wooden figure consisting of a head and long neck attached to a reliquary bundle. Figure has powdered red tukula wood coloring, and reddish brown stained glass eyes. Thin metal strips have been attached to forehead and neck. Strips have a hammered pointed design. Two reddish-black feathers emerge from reliquary bundle on right side of figure. Bundle covered with various plant and other substances held together by crisscrossed fiber ropes. CONDITION: Very good, but fragile. Fibers in front of bundle coming loose; fiber ropes dry and some slightly brittle. Figure is attached to modern metal stand.
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    Reliquary Guardian Figure (Boumba Bwiti)