Kota Obamba Figure
Mbulu-Ngulu reliquary figure
Carved wood and copper
Early 20th century or earlier
Height: 20 ¾ in. (53 cm)
Ex private collection, acquired in the 1950s
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
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 (cf. « Contribution à l'ethnographie des Kuta », 1953 and 1974) figures with concave-convex faces and domed foreheads are male representations.