Reliquary Guardian Figure (Primary Title)

Unknown (Artist)

19th-20th century
wood, brass, nails
Gabon, Cameroon
Overall: 18 1/4 × 4 3/4 × 3 1/2 in. (46.36 × 12.07 × 8.89 cm)
Like a sentry, this rigidly alert figure once guarded a cylindrical reliquary holding ancestral relics (usually a skull and some bones), protecting them from evil spirits and unwanted intrusions. The shaft below the figure’s back would have fit into a slot in the top of the container, so that, when in position, the figure sat on the edge of the reliquary. This guardian represents a physical ideal—muscular, erect, and balanced. The figure’s hands, joined together at the center of the composition, give an appearance of containment that, by contrast, enhances the intense vitality of its torso and limbs.
Gift of Mr. John D. Archbold
Spirit of the Motherland. September 1994. Museum of Western Virginia, Roanoke, VA. July 1995-October 1995. Peninsula Fine Arts Center. January 1996 - May 1996. May 2000.
Image released via Creative Commons CC-BY-NC

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