Kota Obamba Figure

Africa | Gabon

Kota Obamba Figure

Gabon

Mbulu-Ngulu reliquary figure

Carved wood and copper
Early 20th century or earlier
Height: 20 ¾ in. (53 cm)

Provenance:
Ex private collection, acquired in the 1950s
By descent
Ex Christie’s Paris, Arts d’Afrique et d’Océanie, June 11th 2012
Ex collection Daniel Hourdé, Paris
Ex Galerie Ratton, Paris
Ex private collection, Paris acquired from the above in 2017

Publication / Exhibition:
“Gabon”, Galerie Philippe Ratton, June-Sept. 2017 p. 40-41

Kota Obamba figure / Galerie Flak Price: on request
On view at La Biennale
Grand Palais Ephémère, Paris
26 Nov. - 5 Dec. 2021

Ancestor worship formed the core of the religious and social life of the Kota peoples of Gabon. As stated by Louis Perrois, who studied this figure in 2012, these majestic figures called mbulu-ngulu were attached to reliquary baskets containing magical « medicines » and relics of important ancestors. The applied décor made of copper sheets or strips was meant to add power and prestige to the reliquary figure. Metals were indeed associated with longevity and power.
According to Efraim Andersson’s Kota informers (Contribution à l'ethnographie des Kuta, 1953-1974), figures with concave-convex faces and domed foreheads, such as the present example, are male representations.
Of an impressive style, this Kota Obamba figure is a masterpiece of classical African Art.
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