Photo © The Israel Museum, Jerusalem

Reliquary guardian figure (mbulu ngulu)
Late 19th – early 20th century
Mahongwe- Kota people, Gabon
Wood, copper, iron
H: 25.5; W: 13.3 cm
Gift of Lawrence Gussman, Scarsdale, New York, to American Friends of the Israel Museum, in memory of Dr. Albert Schweitzer
Accession number: B97.0009
Among the Kota-Mohongwe people, it was the custom to preserve and cherish the relics of deceased ancestors. Bones from the corpses of family leaders were specially preserved, as were those from people of exceptional character and achievements. The relics were bundled together, sometimes in a bark container, sometimes in a basket. Lashed to the relics, or their container, was a figure, a wooden form covered with brass wire or strips cut from imported vessels and with sheets of brass or copper. Each reliquary was belived to work for the good of the family that possessed it. Most of the time it was kept hidden in the family heads house or in a special small building. The intercession and aid of the ancestors was sought to aid fertility, hunting, and other important undertakings.

Digital presentation of this object was made possible by: The Ridgefield Foundation, New York, in memory of Henry J. and Erna D. Leir