T2K9B337.jpg (32028 bytes)Kota (Akota, Bakota, Kuta), Gabon and Republic of Congo


Reliquary bwete figure. Several ethnic groups termed “Kota” use this kind of abstract figures as guardians for ancestral bone relics. Historically, the Kota left their dead unburied in the forest far from the village. Under the influence of neighboring tribes, they then began to bury their dead. Chiefs were always buried, but often their bones (especially the skull) were later exhumed and placed with magical objects (shells, seeds, fruits) in a bark box or a basket called a bwete, on the top of which a figure was placed. These figures are unusual in African representation of the human head because of its flat, two-dimensional character. The head rests on a column, which opens to lozenge shaped legs. The semicircular top is considered as headdress. Kota rituals allied to ancestor cults aimed to honor illustrious deceased members of the lineage, but also would carefully keep them out of reach of other villagers. Terms such as abstraction or realism are inappropriate here, for this is an example of the most extreme stylization.

Material: African bronze

Size:  23”x 11”x 4”

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