Reliquary Guardian Figure

Kota Peoples: Mahongwe Group
Place Made
Wood, brass and ivory
14 3/4 x 6 in (37.46 x 15.24 cm)
Credit Line
Museum purchase, Gift of an anonymous donor
Accession #

The conical-shaped face is structured in two dimensions supported on a symmetrical axis that runs from the base to a twisted knot of hair. The core of sculpted wood is completely decorated in the front, and particularly in the back, with multiple strips of brass curving more or less horizontally on either side of a large middle plate. The eyes, made of nailed studs, are placed in the middle of the face. Immediately beneath, and on both sides of the thick and pointed strip of the nose, are long "mustaches" arranged in a lengthened oblique shape hooked under the rectilinear base of the object. The long cylindrical neck is sheathed in a metallic thread flattened into a spiral ribbon like shape. It then flares in a longitudinal volume at the base of the pedestal. The figure is ornamented with a decorative metal chevron motif in repose; on the back, at the level of the twisted coil of hair is a stylized and equally decorated braid that brings to mind the ancient coiffures of Kota-Mahongwe notables.