Reliquary Basket - Wood - Ambete/Mbete - Gabon

Reliquary Basket - Wood - Ambete/Mbete - Gabon
Late 20th century - Good condition, used with some signs of wear

Ambete or Mbete reliquary figure and basket from the Congo/Gabon border. The tribe may be derived from the Kota, who are also well known for their reliquary figures. These Bwetes were the focus of offerings and prayers aimed at bringing good fortune to the clan. They would be brought outdoors for initiation ceremonies and for funerals of important elders. Sometimes the figure in the basket would have a hollowed out space in the back – sometimes even with a little door – as the repository for charms and other magical objects.

This is a superb example: it is a female figure who sits in the basket so that we see only her upper body. The face is the typical Ambete diamond shape with stylised features and almost entirely covered in kaolin. Her hair hangs down in two long fibre braids and she sits in a four-square position with her hands resting on the edge of the basket. The body is woven into the basket with the use of fibre which has been further strengthened with clay. There is decorative fibre binding at the shoulders and also at the wrists. As can readily be seen from looking at the patina on the body there is a good deal of age to this piece,

Height: 32 cm

Width: 22 cm (of the figure)

Depth: 17 cm (of the figure)

Diameter: 27 cm (of the basket)

Weight: 1.25 kg

Lot details
Reliquary Basket
Ethnic group/ culture
Region/ country
Late 20th century
Good condition, used with some signs of wear
Sold with stand
32×27×30 cm
1.25 kg
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